Impairment of gamma-glutamyl transferase 1 activity in the metabolic pathogenesis of chromophobe renal cell carcinoma

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jul 3;115(27):E6274-E6282. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710849115. Epub 2018 Jun 11.


Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma (ChRCC) accounts for 5% of all sporadic renal cancers and can also occur in genetic syndromes including Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). ChRCC has a distinct accumulation of abnormal mitochondria, accompanied by characteristic chromosomal imbalances and relatively few "driver" mutations. Metabolomic profiling of ChRCC and oncocytomas (benign renal tumors that share pathological features with ChRCC) revealed both similarities and differences between these tumor types, with principal component analysis (PCA) showing a distinct separation. ChRCC have a striking decrease in intermediates of the glutathione salvage pathway (also known as the gamma-glutamyl cycle) compared with adjacent normal kidney, as well as significant changes in glycolytic and pentose phosphate pathway intermediates. We also found that gamma glutamyl transferase 1 (GGT1), the key enzyme of the gamma-glutamyl cycle, is expressed at ∼100-fold lower levels in ChRCC compared with normal kidney, while no change in GGT1 expression was found in clear cell RCC (ccRCC). Significant differences in specific metabolite abundance were found in ChRCC vs. ccRCC, including the oxidative stress marker ophthalmate. Down-regulation of GGT1 enhanced the sensitivity to oxidative stress and treatment with buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), which was associated with changes in glutathione-pathway metabolites. These data indicate that impairment of the glutathione salvage pathway, associated with enhanced oxidative stress, may have key therapeutic implications for this rare tumor type for which there are currently no specific targeted therapies.

Keywords: chromophobe RCC; gamma-glutamyl cycle; glutathione; mitochondria; oncocytoma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / enzymology*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Oligopeptides / genetics
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / genetics
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Oligopeptides
  • ophthalmic acid
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase