Oxidized ATM promotes breast cancer stem cell enrichment through energy metabolism reprogram-mediated acetyl-CoA accumulation

Cell Death Dis. 2020 Jul 3;11(7):508. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-2714-7.


Cancer stem cell (CSC) is a challenge in the therapy of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Intratumoral hypoxia is a common feature of solid tumor. Hypoxia may contribute to the maintenance of CSC, resulting in a poor efficacy of traditional treatment and recurrence of TNBC cases. However, the underlying molecular mechanism involved in hypoxia-induced CSC stemness maintenance remains unclear. Here, we report that hypoxia stimulated DNA double-strand breaks independent of ATM kinase activation (called oxidized ATM in this paper) play a crucial role in TNBC mammosphere formation and stemness maintenance by governing a specific energy metabolism reprogramming (EMR). Oxidized ATM up-regulates GLUT1, PKM2, and PDHa expressions to enhance the uptake of glucose and production of pyruvate rather than lactate products, which facilitates glycolytic flux to mitochondrial pyruvate and citrate, thus resulting in accumulation of cytoplasmic acetyl-CoA instead of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle by regulating ATP-citrate lyase (ACLY) activity. Our findings unravel a novel model of TNBC-CSC glucose metabolism and its functional role in maintenance of hypoxic TNBC-CSC stemness. This work may help us to develop new therapeutic strategies for TNBC treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl Coenzyme A / metabolism*
  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice, Nude
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Hypoxia
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Histones
  • Acetyl Coenzyme A
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins