Cancer cells consume glucose and secrete lactate in culture. It is unknown whether lactate contributes to energy metabolism in living tumors. We previously reported that human non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) oxidize glucose in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Here, we show that lactate is also a TCA cycle carbon source for NSCLC. In human NSCLC, evidence of lactate utilization was most apparent in tumors with high 18fluorodeoxyglucose uptake and aggressive oncological behavior. Infusing human NSCLC patients with 13C-lactate revealed extensive labeling of TCA cycle metabolites. In mice, deleting monocarboxylate transporter-1 (MCT1) from tumor cells eliminated lactate-dependent metabolite labeling, confirming tumor-cell-autonomous lactate uptake. Strikingly, directly comparing lactate and glucose metabolism in vivo indicated that lactate's contribution to the TCA cycle predominates. The data indicate that tumors, including bona fide human NSCLC, can use lactate as a fuel in vivo.
Keywords: Cancer metabolism; Glycolysis; Lactate; Lung cancer; Metabolic flux analysis; Monocarboxylate transport; Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle; Warburg effect.
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