Acetyl-CoA carboxylase alpha is essential to breast cancer cell survival

Cancer Res. 2006 May 15;66(10):5287-94. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-05-1489.


Activation of de novo fatty acid synthesis is a characteristic feature of cancer cells. We have recently described an interaction between acetyl-CoA carboxylase alpha (ACCalpha), a key enzyme in fatty acid synthesis, and BRCA1, which indicates a possible connection between lipid synthesis and genetic factors involved in susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancers. For this reason, we explored the role of ACCalpha in breast cancer cell survival using an RNA interference (RNAi) approach. We show that specific silencing of either the ACCalpha or the fatty acid synthase (FAS) genes in cancer cells results in a major decrease in palmitic acid synthesis. Depletion of the cellular pool of palmitic acid is associated with induction of apoptosis concomitant with the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and mitochondrial impairment. Expression of a small interfering RNA (siRNA)-resistant form of ACCalpha mRNA prevented the effect of ACCalpha-RNAi but failed to prevent the effect of FAS gene silencing. Furthermore, supplementation of the culture medium with palmitate or with the antioxidant vitamin E resulted in the complete rescue of cells from both ACCalpha and FAS siRNA-induced apoptosis. Finally, human mammary epithelial cells are resistant to RNAi against either ACCalpha or FAS. These data confirm the importance of lipogenesis in cancer cell survival and indicate that this pathway represents a key target for antineoplastic therapy that, however, might require specific dietary recommendation for full efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / biosynthesis
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / genetics
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Growth Processes / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Palmitic Acid / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics


  • Fatty Acids
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Fatty Acid Synthases
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase