Glutamine supports pancreatic cancer growth through a Kras-regulated metabolic pathway

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Glutamine supports pancreatic cancer growth through a Kras-regulated metabolic pathway

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Title: Glutamine supports pancreatic cancer growth through a Kras-regulated metabolic pathway
Author: Son, Jaekyoung; Lyssiotis, Costas A.; Ying, Haoqiang; Wang, Xiaoxu; Hua, Sujun; Ligorio, Matteo; Perera, Rushika M.; Ferrone, Cristina R.; Mullarky, Edouard; Shyh-Chang, Ng; Kang, Ya’an; Fleming, Jason B.; Bardeesy, Nabeel; Asara, John M.; Haigis, Marcia C.; DePinho, Ronald A.; Cantley, Lewis C.; Kimmelman, Alec C.

Note: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.

Citation: Son, J., C. A. Lyssiotis, H. Ying, X. Wang, S. Hua, M. Ligorio, R. M. Perera, et al. 2013. “Glutamine supports pancreatic cancer growth through a Kras-regulated metabolic pathway.” Nature 496 (7443): 101-105. doi:10.1038/nature12040.
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Abstract: 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.
Published Version: doi:10.1038/nature12040
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