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Metabolic regulation of metastatic growth

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MetaRegulation (Metabolic regulation of metastatic growth)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

Metastatic growth of cancer cells requires extracellular matrix (ECM) production. The current understanding is that transcription factors regulate ECM production and thus metastatic growth by increasing the expression of collagen prolyl 4-hydroxylase (CP4H). In contrast, we recently discovered that metabolism regulates CP4H activity independently of the known transcription factors. Specifically, we found that loss of pyruvate metabolism inhibits CP4H activity and consequently ECM–dependent breast cancer cell growth. Based on this discovery we propose the novel concept that metabolism regulates metastatic growth by increasing ECM production.
In this project we will investigate the following questions: 1) What is the mechanism by which pyruvate regulates CP4H activity in breast cancer cells? To address this question we will investigate pyruvate metabolism and ECM production in 3D cultures of various breast cancer cell lines using 13C tracer analysis, metabolomics, and two-photon microscopy based ECM visualization. 2) How can this novel metabolic regulation be exploited to inhibit breast cancer-derived lung metastases growth? To address this question we will inhibit pyruvate metabolism in metastatic breast cancer mouse models using genetically modified cells and small molecules in combination with immuno- and chemotherapy. 3) How can this novel regulation be translated to different metastatic sites and cancers of different origin? To address this question we will determine the in vivo metabolism of breast cancer-, lung cancer-, and melanoma-derived liver and lung metastases (using metabolomics and 13C tracer analysis), and link it to ECM production (using two-photon microscopy based ECM visualization).
With this project we will deliver a novel concept by which metabolism regulates metastatic growth. In a long-term perspective we expect that targeting this novel metabolic regulation will pave the way for an unexplored approach to treat cancer metastases.
The extracellular matrix is a major component of the local environment—that is, the niche—that determines cell behaviour. During metastatic growth, cancer cells shape the extracellular matrix of the metastatic niche by hydroxylating collagen to promote their own metastatic growth. However, only particular nutrients might support the ability of cancer cells to hydroxylate collagen, because nutrients dictate which enzymatic reactions are active in cancer cells4,5. We discovered that breast cancer cells rely on the nutrient pyruvate to drive collagen-based remodelling of the extracellular matrix in the lung metastatic niche. Specifically, we discovered that pyruvate uptake induces the production of α-ketoglutarate. This metabolite in turn activates collagen hydroxylation by increasing the activity of the enzyme collagen prolyl-4-hydroxylase (P4HA). Inhibition of pyruvate metabolism was sufficient to
impair collagen hydroxylation and consequently the growth of breast-cancer-derived lung metastases in different mouse models. In summary, we provide a mechanistic understanding of the link between collagen remodelling and the nutrient environment in the metastatic niche.
The METAREGULATION project goes beyond the state of the art, because:
i) we dissect a novel metabolic regulation based on nutrients of metastatic growth,
ii) we provide an unexplored therapeutic approach to target ECM production and nutrient metabolism in cancer,
iii) we investigate a novel concept to target metabolic regulation in general.
Moreover, we base our work on in vivo metabolism data, consider the cell origin, and the in vivo nutrient microenvironment, which is beyond state-of-the-art in to date cancer metabolism research. This is possible, because we have the expertise to use in vivo 13C tracer analysis, which is a technique only available to a few laboratories worldwide.
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