Inhibition of glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase 1 in cancer cell lines results in altered metabolism with increased dependency of glucose

BMC Cancer. 2018 May 11;18(1):559. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4443-1.


Background: Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase 1 (GOT1) regulates cellular metabolism through coordinating the utilization of carbohydrates and amino acids to meet nutrient requirements. KRAS mutated cancer cells were recently shown to rely on GOT1 to support long-term cell proliferation. The aim of the present study was to address the role of GOT1 in the metabolic adaption of cancer cells.

Methods: GOT1-null and knockdown cell lines were established through CRISPR/Cas9 and shRNA techniques. The growth properties, colony formation ability, autophagy and selected gene expression profiles were analysed. Glucose deprivation decreased the viability of the GOT1-null cells and rescue experiments were conducted with selected intermediates. The redox NADH/NAD+ homeostasis as well as lactate secretion were determined. GOT1 expression levels and correlation with survival rates were analysed in selected tumor databases.

Results: Inhibition of GOT1 sensitized the cancer cells to glucose deprivation, which was partially counteracted by oxaloacetate and phosphoenol pyruvate, metabolic intermediates downstream of GOT1. Moreover, GOT1-null cells accumulated NADH and displayed a decreased ratio of NADH/NAD+ with nutrient depletion. The relevance of GOT1 as a potential target in cancer therapy was supported by a lung adenocarcinoma RNA-seq data set as well as the GEO:GSE database of metastatic melanoma where GOT1 expression was increased. High levels of GOT1 were further linked to poor survival as analysed by the GEPIA web tool, in thyroid and breast carcinoma and in lung adenocarcinoma.

Conclusions: Our study suggests an important role of GOT1 to coordinate the glycolytic and the oxidative phosphorylation pathways in KRAS mutated cancer cells. GOT1 is crucial to provide oxaloacetate at low glucose levels, likely to maintain the redox homeostasis. Our data suggest GOT1 as a possible target in cancer therapy.

Keywords: Cancer; Glucose; Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase 1; Glycolysis; Metabolic regulation; Redox regulation.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Aspartate Aminotransferase, Cytoplasmic / genetics
  • Aspartate Aminotransferase, Cytoplasmic / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Oxaloacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Survival Rate
  • Up-Regulation


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Oxaloacetic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Aspartate Aminotransferase, Cytoplasmic
  • GOT1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Glucose