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BMC Cell Biol. 2012; 13: 18.
Published online Jul 4, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2121-13-18
PMCID: PMC3433355
Immunosuppressive activity enhances central carbon metabolism and bioenergetics in myeloid-derived suppressor cells in vitro models
Ines Hammami,1 Jingkui Chen,1 Frederic Murschel,1 Vincenzo Bronte,2 Gregory De Crescenzo,1 and Mario Jolicoeurcorresponding author1
1Department of Chemical Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, 2500 Chemin de Polytechnique, H3T-1J4, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Department of Pathology, Immunology Section, Verona University, P. le L.A. Scuro, 10 – 37134, Verona, Italy
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Ines Hammami: ines.hammami/at/; Jingkui Chen: jingkui.chen/at/; Frederic Murschel: frederic.murschel/at/; Vincenzo Bronte: vincenzo.bronte/at/; Gregory De Crescenzo: gregory.decrescenzo/at/; Mario Jolicoeur: mario.jolicoeur/at/
Received January 13, 2012; Accepted July 4, 2012.
The tumor microenvironment contains a vast array of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines that alter myelopoiesis and lead to the maturation of immunosuppressive cells known as myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Incubating bone marrow (BM) precursors with a combination of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) generated a tumor-infiltrating MDSC-like population that impaired anti-tumor specific T-cell functions. This in vitro experimental approach was used to simulate MDSC maturation, and the cellular metabolic response was then monitored. A complementary experimental model that inhibited L-arginine (L-Arg) metabolizing enzymes in MSC-1 cells, an immortalized cell line derived from primary MDSCs, was used to study the metabolic events related to immunosuppression.
Exposure of BM cells to GM-CSF and IL-6 activated, within 24 h, L-Arg metabolizing enzymes which are responsible for the MDSCs immunosuppressive potential. This was accompanied by an increased uptake of L-glutamine (L-Gln) and glucose, the latter being metabolized by anaerobic glycolysis. The up-regulation of nutrient uptake lead to the accumulation of TCA cycle intermediates and lactate as well as the endogenous synthesis of L-Arg and the production of energy-rich nucleotides. Moreover, inhibition of L-Arg metabolism in MSC-1 cells down-regulated central carbon metabolism activity, including glycolysis, glutaminolysis and TCA cycle activity, and led to a deterioration of cell bioenergetic status. The simultaneous increase of cell specific concentrations of ATP and a decrease in ATP-to-ADP ratio in BM-derived MDSCs suggested cells were metabolically active during maturation. Moreover, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) was activated during MDSC maturation in GM-CSF and IL-6–treated cultures, as revealed by the continuous increase of AMP-to-ATP ratios and the phosphorylation of AMPK. Likewise, AMPK activity was decreased in MSC-1 cells when L-Arg metabolizing enzymes were inhibited. Finally, inhibition of AMPK activity by the specific inhibitor Compound C (Comp-C) resulted in the inhibition of L-Arg metabolizing enzyme activity and abolished MDSCs immunosuppressive activity.
We anticipate that the inhibition of AMPK and the control of metabolic fluxes may be considered as a novel therapeutic target for the recovery of the immunosurveillance process in cancer-bearing hosts.
Keywords: Myeloid-derived suppressor cells, GM-CSF, IL-6, MSC-1 cells, Central carbon metabolism, Bioenergetics
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