Background: Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST) are rare and aggressive soft tissue sarcomas of the peripheral nervous system which are associated with a poor prognosis. Recurrent genetic mutations of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) have been identified in up to 75% of MPNST cases. PRC2 is involved in an intricate epigenetic regulatory network in mammalian cells, where it is known to function antagonistically to the SWI/SNF protein complexes which are commonly associated with active transcription. The regulatory relationship between these complexes is critical to normal cell development and maintenance of cellular identity. However, little is known about how PRC2 aberrations affect this regulatory balance in MPNST. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the role of SWI/SNF in MPNST. Methods: A CRISPR knock-out (KO) screen combined with single cell RNA sequencing (RNAseq) was used to target 44 components of SWI/SNF complexes. The transcriptional regulatory effects of resulting genes of interest were further investigated via bulk CRISPR RNAseq experiments, while phenotypic effects were studied using loss-of-function assays coupled with colony formation assays. The dynamic complex formation was further deciphered using glycerol gradient sedimentation and co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP) assays. Results: Double PHD Fingers 1 gene, DPF1, was identified as a unique transcriptional regulator of MPNST via the single cell CRISPR KO screen. These findings were confirmed using a bulk RNAseq screen, where gene set enrichment analysis suggested DPF1 KO has an inhibitory effect on MPNST cell cycle and proliferation through enrichment of genes involved in the P53 pathway (FDR<0.0001) and the apoptotic pathway (FDR<0.0001). This hypothesis was validated using siRNA and CRISPR KO studies in MPNST cell lines, where DPF1 KO led to reduced proliferation and viability of these cells in both 2D and 3D cell culture assays. Soft agar assays were then used to highlight a role of DPF1 to in anchorage independent cell growth of MPNST cells. We then used glycerol gradient sedimentation assays to confirm DPF1 function as a member of the SWI/SNF complexes in MPNST, where DPF1 was observed to co-migrate with SMARCA4, a core ATPase commonly associated with the BAF complex of the SWI/SNF family. This assay was also used to eliminate DPF1 as a member of the GBAF and PBAF SWI/SNF complexes in MPNST, as we identified distinct sedimentation of DPF1 and proteins unique to these complexes. These findings were further validated using co-immunoprecipitation assays, where SMARCA4 had the ability to pull down DPF1, while components of the GBAF and PBAF complexes did not. Conclusions: DPF1 has been identified as a unique regulator of MPNST cells and acts as a member of the BAF SWI/SNF complex.

Citation Format: Bega Murray, Xiyuan Zhang, Shahroze Abbas, Haiyan Lei, Hilda Jafarah, Michael C. Kelly, Jack F. Shern. Single cell CRISPR screen of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors identifies SWI/SNF genes of regulatory importance. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference: Cancer Epigenomics; 2022 Oct 6-8; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(23 Suppl_2):Abstract nr B011.