PFKFB3 inhibition reprograms malignant pleural mesothelioma to nutrient stress-induced macropinocytosis and ER stress as independent binary adaptive responses.

Cell Death and Disease 2019 September 27 [Link]

Sarkar Bhattacharya S, Thirusangu P, Jin L, Roy D, Jung D, Xiao Y, Staub J, Roy B, Molina JR, Shridhar V


The metabolic signatures of cancer cells are often associated with elevated glycolysis. Pharmacological (PFK158 treatment) and genetic inhibition of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-biphosphatase 3 (PFKFB3), a critical control point in the glycolytic pathway, decreases glucose uptake, ATP production, and lactate dehydrogenase activity and arrests malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) cells in the G0/G1 phase to induce cell death. To overcome this nutrient stress, inhibition of PFKFB3 activity led to an escalation in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) activity and aggravated ER stress mostly by upregulating BiP and GADD153 expression and activation of the endocytic Rac1-Rab5-Rab7 pathway resulting in a unique form of cell death called “methuosis” in both the sarcomatoid (H28) and epithelioid (EMMeso) cells. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis showed the formation of nascent macropinocytotic vesicles, which rapidly coalesced to form large vacuoles with compromised lysosomal function. Both immunofluorescence microscopy and co-immunoprecipitation analyses revealed that upon PFKFB3 inhibition, two crucial biomolecules of each pathway, Rac1 and Calnexin interact with each other. Finally, PFK158 alone and in combination with carboplatin-inhibited tumorigenesis of EMMeso xenografts in vivo. Since most cancer cells exhibit an increased glycolytic rate, these results provide evidence for PFK158, in combination with standard chemotherapy, may have a potential in the treatment of MPM.