Sheeley Dissertation.pdf (2.75 MB)

Regulation of Energy Metabolism in Extracellular Matrix Detached Breast Cancer Cells

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posted on 07.05.2021, 17:32 by Madeline Sheeley

Breast cancer is the predominant cancer diagnosed among women, and the second most deadly cancer. The vast majority of cancer-related deaths is caused by the metastatic spread of cancer from the primary tumor to a distant site in the body. Therefore, new strategies which minimize breast cancer metastasis are imperative to improve patient survival. Cancer cells which acquire anchorage independence, or the ability to survive without extracellular matrix attachment, and metabolic flexibility have increased potential to metastasize. In the present studies, the ability to survive detachment and subsequent metabolic changes were determined in human Harvey-ras transformed MCF10A-ras breast cancer cells. Detachment resulted in reduced viability in a time-dependent manner with the lowest cell viability observed at forty hours. In addition, decreased cell viability was observed in both glutamine and glucose depleted detached conditions, suggesting a dependence on both nutrients for detached survival. Compared to attached cells, detached cells had reduced total pool sizes of pyruvate, lactate, α-ketoglutarate, fumarate, malate, alanine, serine, and glutamate, suggesting the metabolic stress which occurs under detached conditions. However, intracellular citrate and aspartate pools were unchanged, demonstrating a preference to maintain these pools in detached conditions. Compared to attached cells, detached cells had suppressed glutamine metabolism, as determined by decreased glutamine flux into the TCA cycle and reduced mRNA abundance of glutamine metabolizing enzymes. Further, detached glucose anaplerosis through pyruvate dehydrogenase activity was decreased, while pyruvate carboxylase (PC) expression and activity were increased. A switch in metabolism was observed away from glutamine anaplerosis to a preferential utilization of PC activity to replenish the TCA cycle, determined by reduced PC mRNA abundance in detached cells treated with a cell-permeable analog of α-ketoglutarate, the downstream metabolite of glutamine which enters the TCA cycle. These results suggest that detached cells elevate PC to increase flux of carbons into the TCA cycle when glutamine metabolism is reduced.

Vitamin D is recognized for its role in preventing breast cancer progression, and recent studies suggest that regulation of energy metabolism may contribute to its anticancer effects. Vitamin D primarily acts on target tissue through its most active metabolite, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D). The present work investigated 1,25(OH)2D’s effects on viability of detached cells through regulation of energy metabolism. Treatment of MCF10A-ras cells with 1,25(OH)2D resulted in decreased viability of detached cells. While 1,25(OH)2D treatment did not affect many of the glucose metabolism outcomes measured, including intracellular pyruvate and lactate pool sizes, glucose flux to pyruvate and lactate, and mRNA abundance of enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, 1,25(OH)2D treatment reduced detached PC expression and glucose flux through PC. A reduction in glutamine metabolism was observed with 1,25(OH)2D treatment, although no 1,25(OH)2D target genes were identified. Further, PC depletion by shRNA decreased cell viability in detached conditions with no additional effect with 1,25(OH)2D treatment. Moreover, PC overexpression resulted in increased detached cell viability and inhibited 1,25(OH)2D’s negative effects on viability. These results suggest that 1,25(OH)2D reduces detached cell viability through regulation of PC. Collectively this work identifies a key metabolic adaptation where detached cells increase PC expression and activity to compensate for reduced glutamine metabolism and that 1,25(OH)2D may be utilized to reverse this effect and decrease detached cell viability. These results contribute to an increased understanding of metastatic processes and the regulation of these processes by vitamin D, which may be effective in preventing metastasis and improve breast cancer patient survival.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Nutrition Science

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dorothy Teegarden

Additional Committee Member 2

John Burgess

Additional Committee Member 3

Michael Wendt

Additional Committee Member 4

Qing Jiang

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