Malonate as a ROS product is associated with pyruvate carboxylase activity in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia cells

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Background: The role of anaplerotic nutrient entry into the Krebs cycle via pyruvate carboxylase has been the subject of increased scrutiny and in particular whether this is dysregulated in cancer. Here we use a tracer-based NMR analysis involving high-resolution 1H-13C-HSQC spectra to assess site- specific label incorporation into a range of metabolite pools, including malate, aspartate and glutamate in the acute myeloid leukaemia cell line K562. We also determine how this is affected following treatment with the redeployed drug combination of the lipid-regulating drug bezafibrate and medroxyprogesterone (BaP).
Results: Using the tracer-based approach we assessed the contribution of pyruvate carboxylase (PC) vs pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity in the derivation of Krebs cycle intermediates. Our data show that PC activity is indeed high in K562 cells. We also demonstrate a branched entry to the Krebs cycle of K562 cells with one branch running counterclockwise using PC derived oxaloacetate, and the other clockwise from PDH activity. Finally, we show that the PC activity of K562 cells exclusively fuels the ROS-induced decarboxylation of oxaloacetate to malonate in response to BaP treatment; resulting in further Krebs cycle disruption via depletion of oxaloacetate and malonate-mediated inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) resulting in a 2-fold reduction of fumarate.
Conclusions: This study extends the interest in PC activity in solid cancers to include leukemias and further demonstrates the value of tracer based NMR approaches in generating a more accurate picture of the flow of carbons and metabolites within the increasingly inappropriately named Krebs cycle. Moreover, our studies indicate that PC activity in cancer cells can be exploited as an Achilles heel by using treatments, such as BaP, that elevate ROS production.
Keywords: Cancer metabolism, pyruvate carboxylase, AML, malonate


Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Number of pages8
JournalCancer & Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2016


  • Cancer metabolism , Pyruvate , carboxylase , AML, Malonate

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