Compensatory metabolic networks in pancreatic cancers upon perturbation of glutamine metabolism

Nat Commun. 2017 Jul 3:8:15965. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15965.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is a notoriously difficult-to-treat cancer and patients are in need of novel therapies. We have shown previously that these tumours have altered metabolic requirements, making them highly reliant on a number of adaptations including a non-canonical glutamine (Gln) metabolic pathway and that inhibition of downstream components of Gln metabolism leads to a decrease in tumour growth. Here we test whether recently developed inhibitors of glutaminase (GLS), which mediates an early step in Gln metabolism, represent a viable therapeutic strategy. We show that despite marked early effects on in vitro proliferation caused by GLS inhibition, pancreatic cancer cells have adaptive metabolic networks that sustain proliferation in vitro and in vivo. We use an integrated metabolomic and proteomic platform to understand this adaptive response and thereby design rational combinatorial approaches. We demonstrate that pancreatic cancer metabolism is adaptive and that targeting Gln metabolism in combination with these adaptive responses may yield clinical benefits for patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Glutaminase / genetics
  • Glutaminase / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Proteomics
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Glutamine
  • Glutaminase