Endocrinology and Metabolism

Pyruvate uptake is increased in highly invasive ovarian cancer cells under anoikis conditions for anaplerosis, mitochondrial function, and migration

Christine A. Caneba, Nadège Bellance, Lifeng Yang, Lisa Pabst, Deepak Nagrath


Anoikis resistance, or the ability for cells to live detached from the extracellular matrix, is a property of epithelial cancers. The “Warburg effect,” or the preference of cancer cells for glycolysis for their energy production even in the presence of oxygen, has been shown to be evident in various tumors. Since a cancer cell's metastatic ability depends on microenvironmental conditions (nutrients, stromal cells, and vascularization) and is highly variable for different organs, their cellular metabolic fluxes and nutrient demand may show considerable differences. Moreover, a cancer cell's metastatic ability, which is dependent on the stage of cancer, may further create metabolic alterations depending on its microenvironment. Although recent studies have aimed to elucidate cancer cell metabolism under detached conditions, the nutrient demand and metabolic activity of cancer cells under nonadherent conditions remain poorly understood. Additionally, less is known about metabolic alterations in ovarian cancer cells with varying invasive capability under anoikis conditions. We hypothesized that the metabolism of highly invasive ovarian cancer cells in detachment would differ from less invasive ovarian cancer cells and that ovarian cancer cells will have altered metabolism in detached vs. attached conditions. To assess these metabolic differences, we integrated a secretomics-based metabolic footprinting (MFP) approach with mitochondrial bioenergetics. Interestingly, MFP revealed higher pyruvate uptake and oxygen consumption in more invasive ovarian cancer cells than their less invasive counterparts. Furthermore, ATP production was higher in more invasive vs. less invasive ovarian cancer cells in detachment. We found that pyruvate has an effect on highly invasive ovarian cancer cells' migration ability. Our results are the first to demonstrate that higher mitochondrial activity is related to higher ovarian cancer invasiveness under detached conditions. Importantly, our results bring insights regarding the metabolism of cancer cells under nonadherent conditions and could lead to the development of therapies for modulating cancer cell invasiveness.

  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • metabolomics
  • Warburg effect
  • bioenergetics
  • cancer migration and anoikis
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