RNA editing modifies single nucleotides of RNAs, regulating primary protein structure and protein abundance. In recent years, the diversity of proteins and complexity of gene regulation associated with RNA editing dysregulation has been increasingly appreciated in oncology. Large-scale shifts in editing have been observed in bulk tumors across various cancer types. However, RNA editing in single cells and individual cell types within tumors has not been explored. By profiling editing in single cells from lung adenocarcinoma biopsies, we found that the increased editing trend of bulk lung tumors was unique to cancer cells. Elevated editing levels were observed in cancer cells resistant to targeted therapy, and editing sites associated with drug response were enriched. Consistent with the regulation of antiviral pathways by RNA editing, higher editing levels in cancer cells were associated with reduced antitumor innate immune response, especially levels of natural killer cell infiltration. In addition, the level of RNA editing in cancer cells was positively associated with somatic point mutation burden. This observation motivated the definition of a new metric, RNA editing load, reflecting the amount of RNA mutations created by RNA editing. Importantly, in lung cancer, RNA editing load was a stronger predictor of patient survival than DNA mutations. This study provides the first single cell dissection of editing in cancer and highlights the significance of RNA editing load in cancer prognosis.


RNA editing analysis in single lung adenocarcinoma cells uncovers RNA mutations that correlate with tumor mutation burden and cancer innate immunity and reveals the amount of RNA mutations that strongly predicts patient survival.

See related commentary by Luo and Liang, p. 351

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