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Towards Decoding the Metabolic Plasticity in Cancer: Coupling of Gene Regulation and Metabolic Pathways

By Dongya Jia, Mingyang Lu, Kwang Hwa Jung, Jun Hyoung Park, Linglin Yu, José N. Onuchic, Benny Abraham Kaipparettu, Herbert Levine

Posted 27 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/428367

Metabolic plasticity enables cancer cells to switch their metabolism phenotypes between glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) during tumorigenesis and metastasis. However, it is still largely unknown how cancer cells orchestrate gene regulation to balance their glycolysis and OXPHOS activities for better survival. Here, we establish a theoretical framework to model the coupling of gene regulation and metabolic pathways in cancer. Our modeling results demonstrate a direct association between the activities of AMPK and HIF-1, master regulators of OXPHOS and glycolysis respectively, with the activities of three metabolic pathways: glucose oxidation, glycolysis and fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Guided by the model, we develop metabolic pathway signatures to quantify the activities of glycolysis, FAO and the citric acid cycle of tumor samples by evaluating the expression levels of enzymes involved in corresponding processes. The association of AMPK/HIF-1 activity with metabolic pathway activity, predicted by the model and verified by analyzing the gene expression and metabolite abundance data of patient samples, is further validated by in vitro studies of aggressive triple negative breast cancer cell lines.

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