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Drug-tolerant idling melanoma cells exhibit theory-predicted metabolic low-low phenotype

By Dongya Jia, B. Bishal Paudel, Corey E Hayford, Keisha N. Hardeman, Herbert Levine, José N. Onuchic, Vito Quaranta

Posted 17 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/809889 (published DOI: 10.3389/fonc.2020.01426)

Cancer cells adjust their metabolic profiles to evade treatment. Metabolic adaptation is complex and hence better understood by an integrated theoretical-experimental approach. Using a minimal kinetic model, we predicted a previously undescribed Low/Low phenotype, characterized by low oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and low glycolysis. Here, we report that L/L metabolism is observed in BRAF-mutated melanoma cells that enter a drug-tolerant "idling state" upon long-term MAPK inhibition (MAPKi). Consistently, using publicly available RNA-sequencing data of both cell lines and patient samples, we show that melanoma cells decrease their glycolysis and/or OXPHOS activity upon MAPKi and converge toward the L/L phenotype. L/L metabolism is unfavorable for tumor growth, yet supports successful cell division at ~50% rate. Thus, L/L drug-tolerant idling cells are a reservoir for accumulating mutations responsible for relapse, and should be considered as a target subpopulation for improving MAPKi outcomes in melanoma treatment. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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