Dysregulation of the mevalonate pathway promotes transformation

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 24;107(34):15051-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910258107. Epub 2010 Aug 9.


The importance of cancer metabolism has been appreciated for many years, but the intricacies of how metabolic pathways interconnect with oncogenic signaling are not fully understood. With a clear understanding of how metabolism contributes to tumorigenesis, we will be better able to integrate the targeting of these fundamental biochemical pathways into patient care. The mevalonate (MVA) pathway, paced by its rate-limiting enzyme, hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), is required for the generation of several fundamental end-products including cholesterol and isoprenoids. Despite years of extensive research from the perspective of cardiovascular disease, the contribution of a dysregulated MVA pathway to human cancer remains largely unexplored. We address this issue directly by showing that dysregulation of the MVA pathway, achieved by ectopic expression of either full-length HMGCR or its novel splice variant, promotes transformation. Ectopic HMGCR accentuates growth of transformed and nontransformed cells under anchorage-independent conditions or as xenografts in immunocompromised mice and, importantly, cooperates with RAS to drive the transformation of primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts cells. We further explore whether the MVA pathway may play a role in the etiology of human cancers and show that high mRNA levels of HMGCR and additional MVA pathway genes correlate with poor prognosis in a meta-analysis of six microarray datasets of primary breast cancer. Taken together, our results suggest that HMGCR is a candidate metabolic oncogene and provide a molecular rationale for further exploring the statin family of HMGCR inhibitors as anticancer agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / genetics
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mevalonic Acid / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases
  • Mevalonic Acid