Protein arginine methyltransferase 3-induced metabolic reprogramming is a vulnerable target of pancreatic cancer

J Hematol Oncol. 2019 Jul 19;12(1):79. doi: 10.1186/s13045-019-0769-7.


Background: The biological function of protein arginine methyltransferase 3 (PRMT3) is not well known because very few physiological substrates of this methyltransferase have been identified to date.

Methods: The clinical significance of PRMT3 in pancreatic cancer was studied by database analysis. The PRMT3 protein level of human pancreatic tumors was detected by immunoblotting and immunohistochemical staining. PRMT3-associated proteins and the methylation sites on the proteins were investigated using mass spectrometry. Seahorse Bioscience analyzed the metabolic reprogramming. Combination index analysis and xenograft animal model were conducted to explore the effects of combination of inhibitors of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and oxidative phosphorylation on tumor growth.

Results: We found that the expression of PRMT3 is upregulated in pancreatic cancer, and its expression is associated with poor survival. We identified GAPDH as a PRMT3-binding protein and demonstrated that GAPDH is methylated at R248 by PRMT3 in vivo. The methylation of GAPDH by PRMT3 enhanced its catalytic activity while the mutation of R248 abolished the effect. In cells, PRMT3 overexpression triggered metabolic reprogramming and enhanced glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration simultaneously in a GAPDH-dependent manner. PRMT3-overexpressing cancer cells were addicted to GAPDH-mediated metabolism and sensitive to the inhibition of GAPDH and mitochondrial respiration. The combination of inhibitors of GAPDH and oxidative phosphorylation induced a synergistic inhibition on cellular growth in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that PRMT3 mediates metabolic reprogramming and cellular proliferation through methylating R248 of GAPDH, and double blockade of GAPDH and mitochondrial respiration could be a novel strategy for the treatment of PRMT3-overexpressing pancreatic cancer.

Keywords: Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; Metabolic reprogramming; Methylation; Protein arginine methyltransferase 3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / metabolism*


  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases