Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is notoriously aggressive with high metastatic potential, which has recently been linked to high rates of fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Here we report the mechanism of lipid metabolism dysregulation in TNBC through the prometastatic protein, CUB-domain containing protein 1 (CDCP1). We show that a "low-lipid" phenotype is characteristic of breast cancer cells compared with normal breast epithelial cells and negatively correlates with invasiveness in 3D culture. Using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering and two-photon excited fluorescence microscopy, we show that CDCP1 depletes lipids from cytoplasmic lipid droplets (LDs) through reduced acyl-CoA production and increased lipid utilization in the mitochondria through FAO, fueling oxidative phosphorylation. These findings are supported by CDCP1's interaction with and inhibition of acyl CoA-synthetase ligase (ACSL) activity. Importantly, CDCP1 knockdown increases LD abundance and reduces TNBC 2D migration in vitro, which can be partially rescued by the ACSL inhibitor, Triacsin C. Furthermore, CDCP1 knockdown reduced 3D invasion, which can be rescued by ACSL3 co-knockdown. In vivo, inhibiting CDCP1 activity with an engineered blocking fragment (extracellular portion of cleaved CDCP1) lead to increased LD abundance in primary tumors, decreased metastasis, and increased ACSL activity in two animal models of TNBC. Finally, TNBC lung metastases have lower LD abundance than their corresponding primary tumors, indicating that LD abundance in primary tumor might serve as a prognostic marker for metastatic potential. Our studies have important implications for the development of TNBC therapeutics to specifically block CDCP1-driven FAO and oxidative phosphorylation, which contribute to TNBC migration and metastasis.
Keywords: CDCP1; FAO; TNBC; lipid droplets; metastasis.