Targeting metabolic plasticity in glioma stem cells in vitro and in vivo through specific inhibition of c-Src by TAT-Cx43266-283

EBioMedicine. 2020 Dec:62:103134. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103134. Epub 2020 Nov 27.


Background: Glioblastoma is the most aggressive primary brain tumour and has a very poor prognosis. Inhibition of c-Src activity in glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs, responsible for glioblastoma lethality) and primary glioblastoma cells by the peptide TAT-Cx43266-283 reduces tumorigenicity, and boosts survival in preclinical models. Because c-Src can modulate cell metabolism and several reports revealed poor clinical efficacy of various antitumoral drugs due to metabolic rewiring in cancer cells, here we explored the inhibition of advantageous GSC metabolic plasticity by the c-Src inhibitor TAT-Cx43266-283.

Methods: Metabolic impairment induced by the c-Src inhibitor TAT-Cx43266-283 in vitro was assessed by fluorometry, western blotting, immunofluorescence, qPCR, enzyme activity assays, electron microscopy, Seahorse analysis, time-lapse imaging, siRNA, and MTT assays. Protein expression in tumours from a xenograft orthotopic glioblastoma mouse model was evaluated by immunofluorescence.

Findings: TAT-Cx43266-283 decreased glucose uptake in human GSCs and reduced oxidative phosphorylation without a compensatory increase in glycolysis, with no effect on brain cell metabolism, including rat neurons, human and rat astrocytes, and human neural stem cells. TAT-Cx43266-283 impaired metabolic plasticity, reducing GSC growth and survival under different nutrient environments. Finally, GSCs intracranially implanted with TAT-Cx43266-283 showed decreased levels of important metabolic targets for cancer therapy, such as hexokinase-2 and GLUT-3.

Interpretation: The reduced ability of TAT-Cx43266-283-treated GSCs to survive in metabolically challenging settings, such as those with restricted nutrient availability or the ever-changing in vivo environment, allows us to conclude that the advantageous metabolic plasticity of GSCs can be therapeutically exploited through the specific and cell-selective inhibition of c-Src by TAT-Cx43266-283.

Funding: Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (FEDER BFU2015-70040-R and FEDER RTI2018-099873-B-I00), Fundación Ramón Areces. Fellowships from the Junta de Castilla y León, European Social Fund, Ministerio de Ciencia and Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (AECC).

Keywords: Brain tumour; Cancer metabolism; Connexin; GLUT-3; Glioblastoma stem cells; Hexokinase-2.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Extracellular Space
  • Fluorocarbons / metabolism
  • Glioma / drug therapy
  • Glioma / metabolism*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacology*
  • src-Family Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • src-Family Kinases
  • Glucose
  • perflubron