Glycolysis inhibition sensitizes tumor cells to death receptors-induced apoptosis by AMP kinase activation leading to Mcl-1 block in translation

Pradelli LA, Bénéteau M, Chauvin C, Jacquin MA, Marchetti S, Muñoz-Pinedo C, Auberger P, Pende M, Ricci JE

Oncogene 2010 Mar;29(11):1641-52


PMID: 19966861

Most cancer cells exhibit increased glycolysis for generation of their energy supply. This specificity could be used to preferentially kill these cells. In this study, we identified the signaling pathway initiated by glycolysis inhibition that results in sensitization to death receptor (DR)-induced apoptosis. We showed, in several human cancer cell lines (such as Jurkat, HeLa, U937), that glucose removal or the use of nonmetabolizable form of glucose (2-deoxyglucose) dramatically enhances apoptosis induced by Fas or by tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand. This sensitization is controlled through the adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is the central energy-sensing system of the cell. We established the fact that AMPK is activated upon glycolysis block resulting in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition leading to Mcl-1 decrease, but no other Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic members. Interestingly, we determined that, upon glycolysis inhibition, the AMPK-mTOR pathway controlled Mcl-1 levels neither through transcriptional nor through posttranslational mechanism but rather by controlling its translation. Therefore, our results show a novel mechanism for the sensitization to DR-induced apoptosis linking glucose metabolism to Mcl-1 downexpression. In addition, this study provides a rationale for the combined use of DR ligands with AMPK activators or mTOR inhibitors in the treatment of human cancers.