Nutrient restriction reprograms cellular signaling and metabolic network to shape cancer phenotype. Lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) has a key role in aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) through regeneration of the electron acceptor NAD+ and is widely regarded as a desirable target for cancer therapeutics. However, the mechanisms of cellular response and adaptation to LDHA inhibition remain largely unknown. Here, we show that LDHA activity supports serine and aspartate biosynthesis. Surprisingly, however, LDHA inhibition fails to impact human melanoma cell proliferation, survival, or tumor growth. Reduced intracellular serine and aspartate following LDHA inhibition engage GCN2-ATF4 signaling to initiate an expansive pro-survival response. This includes the upregulation of glutamine transporter SLC1A5 and glutamine uptake, with concomitant build-up of essential amino acids, and mTORC1 activation, to ameliorate the effects of LDHA inhibition. Tumors with low LDHA expression and melanoma patients acquiring resistance to MAPK signaling inhibitors, which target the Warburg effect, exhibit altered metabolic gene expression reminiscent of the ATF4-mediated survival signaling. ATF4-controlled survival mechanisms conferring synthetic vulnerability to the approaches targeting the Warburg effect offer efficacious therapeutic strategies.
Keywords: LDHA; ATF4; Warburg; aspartate; mTORC1.
© 2018 The Authors.