cancer metabolism; NADPH; aspartate aminotransferase; malic enzyme; glutamate dehydrogenase
Cancer cells exhibit metabolic dependencies that distinguish them from their normal counterparts1. Among these addictions is an increased utilization of the amino acid glutamine (Gln) to fuel anabolic processes2. Indeed, the spectrum of Gln-dependent tumors and the mechanisms whereby Gln supports cancer metabolism remain areas of active investigation. Here we report the identification of a non-canonical pathway of Gln utilization in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells that is required for tumor growth. While most cells utilize glutamate dehydrogenase (GLUD1) to convert Gln-derived glutamate (Glu) into α-ketoglutarate in the mitochondria to fuel the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, PDAC relies on a distinct pathway to fuel the TCA cycle such that Gln-derived aspartate is transported into the cytoplasm where it can be converted into oxaloacetate (OAA) by aspartate transaminase (GOT1). Subsequently, this OAA is converted into malate and then pyruvate, ostensibly increasing the NADPH/NADP+ ratio which can potentially maintain the cellular redox state. Importantly, PDAC cells are strongly dependent on this series of reactions, as Gln deprivation or genetic inhibition of any enzyme in this pathway leads to an increase in reactive oxygen species and a reduction in reduced glutathione. Moreover, knockdown of any component enzyme in this series of reactions also results in a pronounced suppression of PDAC growth in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we establish that the reprogramming of Gln metabolism is mediated by oncogenic Kras, the signature genetic alteration in PDAC, via the transcriptional upregulation and repression of key metabolic enzymes in this pathway. The essentiality of this pathway in PDAC and the fact that it is dispensable in normal cells may provide novel therapeutic approaches to treat these refractory tumors.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major cause of cancer mortality. Whereas some patients respond well to therapy, others do not, and thus more precise, individualized treatment strategies are needed. To that end, we analyzed gene expression profiles from 1,290 CRC tumors using consensus-based unsupervised clustering. The resultant clusters were then associated with therapeutic response data to the epidermal growth factor receptor–targeted drug cetuximab in 80 patients. The results of these studies define six clinically relevant CRC subtypes. Each subtype shares similarities to distinct cell types within the normal colon crypt and shows differing degrees of ‘stemness’ and Wnt signaling. Subtype-specific gene signatures are proposed to identify these subtypes. Three subtypes have markedly better disease-free survival (DFS) after surgical resection, suggesting these patients might be spared from the adverse effects of chemotherapy when they have localized disease. One of these three subtypes, identified by filamin A expression, does not respond to cetuximab but may respond to cMET receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the metastatic setting. Two other subtypes, with poor and intermediate DFS, associate with improved response to the chemotherapy regimen FOLFIRI1 in adjuvant or metastatic settings. Development of clinically deployable assays for these subtypes and of subtype-specific therapies may contribute to more effective management of this challenging disease.
Warburg suggested that the alterations in metabolism that he observed in cancer cells were due to the malfunction of mitochondria. In the past decade, we have revisited this idea and reached a better understanding of the ‘metabolic switch’ in cancer cells, including the intimate and causal relationship between cancer genes and metabolic alterations, and their potential to be targeted for cancer treatment. However, the vast majority of the research into cancer metabolism has been limited to a handful of metabolic pathways, while other pathways have remained in the dark. This Progress article brings to light the important contribution of fatty acid oxidation to cancer cell function.
The LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat protein kinase-2) is mutated in a significant number of Parkinson’s disease patients, but little is known about its regulation and function. A common mutation changing Gly2019 to serine enhances catalytic activity, suggesting that small-molecule inhibitors might have utility in treating Parkinson’s disease. We employed various approaches to explore the substrate-specificity requirements of LRRK2 and elaborated a peptide substrate termed Nictide, that had 20-fold lower Km and nearly 2-fold higher Vmax than the widely deployed LRRKtide substrate. We demonstrate that LRRK2 has marked preference for phosphorylating threonine over serine. We also observed that several ROCK (Rho kinase) inhibitors such as Y-27632 and H-1152, suppressed LRRK2 with similar potency to which they inhibited ROCK2. In contrast, GSK429286A, a selective ROCK inhibitor, did not significantly inhibit LRRK2. We also identified a mutant LRRK2[A2016T] that was normally active, but resistant to H-1152 and Y-27632, as well as sunitinib, a structurally unrelated multikinase inhibitor that, in contrast with other compounds, suppresses LRRK2, but not ROCK. We have also developed the first sensitive antibody that enables measurement of endogenous LRRK2 protein levels and kinase activity as well as shRNA (short hairpin RNA) methods to reduce LRRK2 expression. Finally, we describe a pharmacological approach to validate whether substrates are phosphorylated by LRRK2 and use this to provide evidence that LRRK2 may not be rate-limiting for the phosphorylation of the proposed substrate moesin. The findings of the present study will aid with the investigation of LRRK2.
leucine-rich repeat protein kinase-2 (LRRK2); moesin; Parkinson’s disease; phosphorylation; Rho kinase (ROCK)
The rewiring of metabolism in cancer is thought to result from hyperactivation of signaling pathways that instruct cells to grow. Sebastian et al. show that loss of the tumor suppressor SIRT6 transforms cells by activating tumor metabolism. This occurs independently of mutations in canonical growth signaling pathways and reveals a tumorigenic role for cancer metabolism.
PKNs form a subfamily of the AGC serine/threonine protein kinases, and have a catalytic domain homologous with that of PKC (protein kinase C) in the C-terminal region and three characteristic ACC (antiparallel coiled-coil) domain repeats in the N-terminal region. The preferred peptide phosphorylation motif for PKNs determined by a combinatorial peptide library method was highly similar to that of PKCs within a 10-amino-acid stretch. Previously reported PKN inhibitory compounds also inhibit PKCs to a similar extent, and no PKN selective inhibitors have been commercially available. We have identified a 15-amino-acid peptide inhibitor of PKNs based on amino acids 485–499 of the C-terminal region of the C2-like domain of PKN1. This peptide, designated as PRL, selectively inhibits the kinase activity of all isoforms of PKN (Ki = 0.7 μM) towards a peptide substrate, as well as autophosphorylation activity of PKN in vitro, in contrast with PKC. Reversible conjugation by a disulfide bond of a carrier peptide bearing a penetration accelerating sequence to PRL, facilitated the cellular uptake of this peptide and significantly inhibited phosphorylation of tau by PKN1 at the PKN1-specific phosphorylation site in vivo. This peptide may serve as a valuable tool for investigating PKN activation and PKN-mediated responses.
cell-penetrating peptide (CPP); penetration accelerating sequence octa-arginine (LPasR8); PRL; protein kinase C (PKC); PKN inhibitor
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a serine/threonine kinase that exists in two separate complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, that function to control cell size and growth in response to growth factors, nutrients, and cellular energy levels. Low molecular weight GTP-binding proteins of the Rheb and Rag families are key regulators of the mTORC1 complex, but regulation of mTORC2 is poorly understood. Here, we report that Rac1, a member of the Rho family of GTPases, is a critical regulator of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 in response to growth-factor stimulation. Deletion of Rac1 in primary cells using an inducible-Cre/Lox approach inhibits basal and growth-factor activation of both mTORC1 and mTORC2. Rac1 appears to bind directly to mTOR and to mediate mTORC1 and mTORC2 localization at specific membranes. Binding of Rac1 to mTOR does not depend on the GTP-bound state of Rac1, but on the integrity of its C-terminal domain. This function of Rac1 provides a means to regulate mTORC1 and mTORC2 simultaneously.
Seemingly unrelated mutations that drive cancer share the ability to promote nutrient uptake and metabolism conducive to cell growth.
Mutations that truncate the C-terminal non-catalytic moiety of TTBK2 (tau tubulin kinase 2) cause the inherited, autosomal dominant, SCA11 (spinocerebellar ataxia type 11) movement disorder. In the present study we first assess the substrate specificity of TTBK2 and demonstrate that it has an unusual preference for a phosphotyrosine residue at the +2 position relative to the phosphorylation site. We elaborate a peptide substrate (TTBKtide, RRKDLHDDEEDEAMSIYpA) that can be employed to quantify TTBK2 kinase activity. Through modelling and mutagenesis we identify a putative phosphate-priming groove within the TTBK2 kinase domain. We demonstrate that SCA11 truncating mutations promote TTBK2 protein expression, suppress kinase activity and lead to enhanced nuclear localization. We generate an SCA11-mutation-carrying knockin mouse and show that this leads to inhibition of endogenous TTBK2 protein kinase activity. Finally, we find that, in homozygosity, the SCA11 mutation causes embryonic lethality at embryonic day 10. These findings provide the first insights into some of the intrinsic properties of TTBK2 and reveal how SCA11-causing mutations affect protein expression, catalytic activity, localization and development. We hope that these findings will be helpful for future investigation of the regulation and function of TTBK2 and its role in SCA11.
movement disorder; neurodegeneration; protein kinase; signal transduction; tau tubulin kinase peptide substrate (TTBKtide)
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and pancreatic β cell dysfunction, the latter possibly caused by a defect in insulin signaling in β cells. Inhibition of class IA phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), using a mouse model lacking the pik3r1 gene specifically in β cells and the pik3r2 gene systemically (βDKO mouse), results in glucose intolerance and reduced insulin secretion in response to glucose. β cells of βDKO mice had defective exocytosis machinery due to decreased expression of soluble N-ethylmaleimide attachment protein receptor (SNARE) complex proteins and loss of cell-cell synchronization in terms of Ca2+ influx. These defects were normalized by expression of a constitutively active form of Akt in the islets of βDKO mice, preserving insulin secretion in response to glucose. The class IA PI3K pathway in β cells in vivo is important in the regulation of insulin secretion and may be a therapeutic target for type 2 diabetes.
The nonreceptor tyrosine kinase BMX (bone marrow tyrosine kinase gene on chromosome X) is abundant in various cell types and activated downstream of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) and the kinase Src, but its substrates are unknown. Positional scanning peptide library screening revealed a marked preference for a priming phosphorylated tyrosine (pY) in the −1 position, indicating that BMX substrates may include multiple tyrosine kinases that are fully activated by pYpY sites in the kinase domain. BMX phosphorylated focal adhesion kinase (FAK) at Tyr577 subsequent to its Src-mediated phosphorylation at Tyr576. Loss of BMX by RNA interference or by genetic deletion in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) markedly impaired FAK activity. Phosphorylation of the insulin receptor in the kinase domain at Tyr1189 and Tyr1190, as well as Tyr1185, and downstream phosphorylation of the kinase AKT at Thr308 were similarly impaired by BMX deficiency. However, insulin-induced phosphorylation of AKT at Ser473 was not impaired in Bmx knockout MEFs or liver tissue from Bmx knockout mice, which also showed increased insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, possibly because of decreased abundance of the phosphatase PHLPP (PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase). Thus, by identifying the pYpY motif as a substrate for BMX, our findings suggest that BMX functions as a central regulator among multiple signaling pathways mediated by tyrosine kinases.
Amino acids are required for activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase which regulates protein translation, cell growth, and autophagy. Cell surface transporters that allow amino acids to enter the cell and signal to mTOR are unknown. We show that cellular uptake of L-glutamine and its subsequent rapid efflux in the presence of essential amino acids (EAA) is the rate-limiting step that activates mTOR. L-glutamine uptake is regulated by SLC1A5 and loss of SLC1A5 function inhibits cell growth and activates autophagy. The molecular basis for L-glutamine sensitivity is due to SLC7A5/SLC3A2, a bidirectional transporter that regulates the simultaneous efflux of L-glutamine out of cells and transport of L-leucine/EAA into cells. Certain tumor cell lines with high basal cellular levels of L-glutamine bypass the need for L-glutamine uptake and are primed for mTOR activation. Thus, L-glutamine flux regulates mTOR, translation and autophagy to coordinate cell growth and proliferation.
There is a need to improve treatments for metastatic breast cancer. Here we show activation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and MAP kinase (MAPK) pathways in a MMTV-CreBRCA1f/fp53+/− mouse model of breast cancer. When treated with the pan-Class IA PI3K-inhibitor NVP-BKM120, tumor doubling was delayed from 5 to 26 days. NVP-BKM120 reduced AKT phosphorylation, tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Resistant tumors maintained suppression of AKT phosphorylation but exhibited activation of the MAPK-pathway at the “pushing margin”. Surprisingly, PI3K-inhibition increased indicators of DNA damage, poly-ADP-ribosylation and γH2AX, but decreased Rad51 focus formation, suggesting a critical role of PI3K activity for Rad51 recruitment. PARP-inhibitor Olaparib alone attenuated tumor growth modestly; however, the combination of NVP-BKM120 and Olaparib delayed tumor doubling to more than 70 days in the mouse model and over 50 days in xenotransplants from human BRCA1-related tumors, suggesting that combined PI3K- and PARP-inhibition might be effective treatment for BRCA1-related tumors.
PI3 Kinase inhibitor; NVP-BKM120; PARP-Inhibitor; Olaparib; BRCA1-related breast cancer
There is high morbidity associated with local recurrence of rectal cancer. However, the adjuvant therapies given to prevent such recurrences also have significant side effects and associated risks. The ability to select patients with the highest risk of recurrence and greatest therapeutic response will improve rectal cancer care.
Threonine is the only amino acid critically required for the pluripotency of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) but the detailed mechanism remains unclear. We found that threonine (Thr) and S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM) metabolism are coupled in pluripotent stem cells, resulting in regulation of histone methylation. Isotope labeling of mESCs revealed that Thr provides a substantial fraction of both the cellular glycine (Gly) and the acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) needed for SAM synthesis. Depletion of Thr from the culture medium or threonine dehydrogenase (Tdh) from mESCs decreased accumulation of SAM and decreased tri-methylation of histone H3 lysine-4 (H3K4me3), leading to slowed growth, and increased differentiation. Thus abundance of SAM appears to influence H3K4me3, providing a possible mechanism by which modulation of a metabolic pathway might influence stem cell fate.
The PI3K-AKT, mTOR-p70S6 kinase and AMPK pathways play distinct and critical roles in metabolic regulation. Each pathway is necessary for leptin's anorexigenic effects in the hypothalamus. Here we show that these pathways converge in an integrated phosphorylation cascade to mediate leptin action in the hypothalamus. We identify serine491 on α2AMPK as the site of convergence and show that p70S6 kinase forms a complex with α2AMPK, resulting in phosphorylation on serine491. Blocking α2AMPK-serine491 phosphorylation increases hypothalamic AMPK activity, food intake, and body weight. Serine491 phosphorylation is necessary for leptin's effects on hypothalamic α2AMPK activity, neuropeptide expression, food intake, and body weight. These results identify an inhibitory AMPK kinase, p70S6 kinase, and demonstrate that AMPK is a substrate for mTOR-p70S6 kinase. This discovery has broad biologic implications since mTOR-p70S6 kinase and AMPK have multiple, fundamental and generally opposing cellular effects that regulate metabolism, cell growth, and development.
Cell growth and differentiation are controlled by growth factor receptors coupled to the GTPase Ras. Oncogenic mutations disrupt GTPase activity leading to persistent Ras signaling and cancer progression. Recent evidence indicates that monoubiquitination of Ras leads to Ras activation. Mutation of the primary site of monoubiquitination impairs the ability of activated K–Ras to promote tumor growth. To determine the mechanism of human Ras activation we chemically ubiquitinated the protein and analyzed its function by NMR, computational modeling, and biochemical activity measurements. We established that monoubiquitination has little effect on Ras GTP binding, GTP hydrolysis, or exchange factor activation, but severely abrogates the response to GTPase activating proteins in a site–specific manner. These findings reveal a new mechanism by which Ras can trigger persistent signaling in the absence of receptor activation or an oncogenic mutation.
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is activated when the AMP/ATP ratio in cells is elevated due to energy stress. Here we describe a biosensor, AMPKAR, which exhibits enhanced fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in response to phosphorylation by AMPK, allowing spatio-temporal monitoring of AMPK activity in single cells. We show that this reporter responds to a variety of stimuli that are known to induce energy stress and that the response is dependent on AMPK α1 & α2 and on the upstream kinase, LKB1. Interestingly we found that AMPK activation is confined to the cytosol in response to energy stress but can be observed in both the cytosol and nucleus in response to calcium elevation. Finally, using this probe with U2OS cells in a microfluidics device, we observed a very high cell-to-cell variability in the amplitude and time course of AMPK activation and recovery in response to pulses of glucose deprivation.
Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) is upregulated in multiple cancer types and contributes to the Warburg effect by unclarified mechanisms. Here we demonstrate that EGFR-activated ERK2 binds directly to PKM2 I429/L431 via the ERK2 docking groove and phosphorylates PKM2 Ser37 but not PKM1. Phosphorylated PKM2 Ser37 recruits PIN1 for cis-trans isomerization of PKM2, which leads to PKM2 binding to importin α5 and nuclear translocation. Nuclear PKM2, acting as a coactivator of β-catenin, induces c-Myc expression, resulting in the upregulation of GLUT1, LDHA, and, in a positive feedback loop, PTB-dependent PKM2 expression. Replacement of wild type PKM2 with a nuclear translocation-deficient mutant (S37A) blocks the EGFR-promoted Warburg effect and brain tumor development. In addition, levels of PKM2 S37 phosphorylation correlate with EGFR and ERK1/2 activity in human glioblastoma specimens. Our findings highlight the importance of nuclear functions of PKM2 in the Warburg effect and tumorigenesis.
ATP citrate lyase (ACL) catalyzes the conversion of cytosolic citrate to acetyl-CoA and oxaloacetate. A definitive role for ACL in tumorigenesis has emerged from ACL RNAi and chemical inhibitor studies, showing that ACL inhibition limits tumor cell proliferation and survival and induces differentiation in vitro. In vivo, it reduces tumor growth leading to a cytostatic effect and induces differentiation. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood and agents that could enhance the efficacy of ACL inhibition have not been identified. Our studies focus on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) lines, which show phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT activation secondary to a mutation in the K-Ras gene or the EGFR gene. Here we show that ACL knockdown promotes apoptosis and differentiation, leading to the inhibition of tumor growth in vivo. Moreover, in contrast to most studies, which elucidate how activation/ suppression of signaling pathways can modify metabolism, we show that inhibition of a metabolic pathway “reverse signals” and attenuates PI3K/AKT signaling. Additionally, we find that statins, inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, which act downstream of ACL in the cholesterol synthesis pathway, dramatically enhance the anti-tumor effects of ACL inhibition, even regressing established tumors. With statin treatment, both PI3K/AKT and the MAPK pathways are affected. Moreover, this combined treatment is able to reduce the growth of EGF receptor resistant tumor cell types. Given the essential role of lipid synthesis in numerous cancers, this work may impact therapy in a broad range of tumors.
Decremental loss of PTEN results in cancer susceptibility and tumor progression. In turn this raises the possibility that PTEN elevation might be an attractive option for cancer prevention and therapy. We have generated several transgenic mouse lines with variably elevated PTEN expression levels, taking advantage of BAC (Bacterial Artificial Chromosome)-mediated transgenesis. Super-PTEN mutants are viable and show reduced body size due to decreased cell number, with no effect on cell size. Unexpectedly, PTEN elevation at the organism level results in healthy metabolism characterized by increased energy expenditure and reduced body fat accumulation. Cells derived from these mice show reduced glucose and glutamine uptake, increased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, and are resistant to oncogenic transformation. Mechanistically we find that PTEN elevation orchestrates this metabolic switch by regulating PI3K-dependent and independent pathways, and negatively impacts two of the most pronounced metabolic features of tumor cells: glutaminolysis and the Warburg effect.
The IκB kinase (IKK) pathway is an essential mediator of inflammatory, oncogenic, and cell stress pathways. Recently IKK was shown to be essential for autophagy induction in mammalian cells independent of its ability regulate NF-κB, but the mechanism by which this occurs is unclear. Here we demonstrate that the p85 regulatory subunit of PI3K is an IKK substrate, phosphorylated at S690 in vitro and in vivo in response to cellular starvation. Cells expressing p85 S690A or inhibited for IKK activity exhibit increased Akt activity following cell starvation, demonstrating that p85 phosphorylation is required for starvation-induced PI3K feedback inhibition. S690 is in a conserved region of the p85 cSH2 domain, and IKK-mediated phosphorylation of this site results in decreased affinity for tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins and decreased PI3K membrane localization. Finally, leucine deprivation is shown to be necessary and sufficient for starvation-induced, IKK-mediated p85 phosphorylation and PI3K feedback inhibition.
cellular starvation; IKK; PI3K; p85; SH2 domain