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Oncogenic Rag GTPase signalling enhances B cell activation and drives follicular lymphoma sensitive to pharmacological inhibition of mTOR


The humoral immune response requires that B cells undergo a sudden anabolic shift and high cellular nutrient levels, which are required to sustain the subsequent proliferative burst. Follicular lymphoma (FL) originates from B cells that have participated in the humoral response, and 15% of FL samples harbour point-activating mutations in RRAGC, an essential activator of mTORC1 downstream of the sensing of cellular nutrients. The impact of recurrent RRAGC mutations in B cell function and lymphoma is unexplored. RRAGC mutations, targeted to the endogenous locus in mice, confer a partial insensitivity to nutrient deprivation, but strongly exacerbate B cell responses and accelerate lymphomagenesis, while creating a selective vulnerability to pharmacological inhibition of mTORC1. This moderate increase in nutrient signalling synergizes with paracrine cues from the supportive T cell microenvironment that activate B cells via the PI3K–Akt–mTORC1 axis. Hence, Rragc mutations sustain induced germinal centres and murine and human FL in the presence of decreased T cell help. Our results support a model in which activating mutations in the nutrient signalling pathway foster lymphomagenesis by corrupting a nutrient-dependent control over paracrine signals from the T cell microenvironment.

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Fig. 1: RagC mutant cells are partially resistant to amino acid withdrawal.
Fig. 2: Accelerated lymphomagenesis by heterozygous expression of mutant RagC in mice with selective sensitivity to rapamycin.
Fig. 3: Exacerbated humoral response in RagC mutant mice.
Fig. 4: B cell-intrinsic activation and increased fitness by expression of RagC mutations.
Fig. 5: Impact of RagC mutations in Tfh-mediated B cell activation and apoptosis in FL.
Fig. 6: Consequences of RagC mutations for GC B cell and lymphomagenesis.

Data availability

Sequence data that support the findings of this study have been deposited in GEO, with the accession codes GSE125393 and GSE125394. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request. The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We are indebted to D. M. Sabatini (R01 CA129105, R01 CA103866 and R37 AI047389) and thank R. Jaenisch, S. Markoulaki and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research CRISPR facility for zygote injections. We thank A. Clear and K. Korfi for generating TMAs from lymphoma patients, and P. A. Katajisto for critical reading of the manuscript. We also thank CNIO Flow Cytometry, Histopathology, Animal Facility and Genomics Core Units for excellent technical support. Research was supported by the RETOS projects Programme of Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, Spanish State Research Agency, cofunded by the European Regional Development Fund (grant SAF2015-67538-R), EU-H2020 Programme (ERC-2014-STG-638891), Excellence Network Grant from MICIU/AEI (SAF2016-81975-REDT), a Ramon y Cajal Award from MICIU/AEI (RYC-2013-13546), Spanish Association Against Cancer Research Scientific Foundation Laboratory Grant, Beca de Investigación en Oncología Olivia Roddom, FERO Grant for Research in Oncology; Miguel Servet Fellowship and Grant Award (MS16/00112 and CP16/00112) and Project PI18/00816 within the Health Strategic Action from the ISCIII (to A.O.-M.), both cofunded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marcos Fernandez Fellowship from the Spanish Leukaemia and Lymphoma Foundation/Vistare Foundation (to A.O.-M.) and L’Oreal For Women in Science Award (to A.O.-M.). J.F. is a recipient of a Cancer Research UK Programme Award (15968) and J.O. is a recipient of a Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist Fellowship (22742). N.M.-M. is a Ramon y Cajal Awardee MICIU/AEI (RYC-2016-20173). N.D.-S., C.C.A., A.B.P.-G. and K.T. are recipients of Ayudas de contratos predoctorales para la formacion de doctores from MICIU/AEI (BES-2016-077410, BES-2015-073776, BES-2017081381, BES-2016-078082).

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A.O.-M. performed most experiments, contributed to experimental design, data analysis and writing of the manuscript. N.D.-S, A.S., C.L.-F, C.M., C.C.A., A.V., L.M.-A, B.F.-R, A.B.P-G. and N.M.-M. provided help with experimentation. K.T. and E.P.-Y. performed bioinformatics analysis of RNA-seq and meta-analysis of mutually exclusive mutations. E.C. and A.D.M. performed and diagnosed the histology and pathology. J.C. and N.N. performed and analysed immunohistochemistry studies on human samples. S.A., J.O. and J.F. performed the mutation analyses on the patient samples, provided the corresponding tissue microarrays and clinical information. J.O., J.F. and G.D.V. contributed critical intellectual input in design and interpretation of data. A.E. conceived and supervised the study, analysed the data, wrote the manuscript and secured funding. All authors read and commented on the manuscript and figures.

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Correspondence to Alejo Efeyan.

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Ortega-Molina, A., Deleyto-Seldas, N., Carreras, J. et al. Oncogenic Rag GTPase signalling enhances B cell activation and drives follicular lymphoma sensitive to pharmacological inhibition of mTOR. Nat Metab 1, 775–789 (2019).

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