Rationale: One of the most common metabolic defects in cancers is the deficiency in arginine synthesis, which has been exploited therapeutically. Yet, challenges remain, and the mechanisms of arginine-starvation induced killing are largely unclear. Here, we sought to demonstrate the underlying mechanisms by which arginine starvation-induced cell death and to develop a dietary arginine-restriction xenograft model to study the in vivo effects. Methods: Multiple castration-resistant prostate cancer cell lines were treated with arginine starvation followed by comprehensive analysis of microarray, RNA-seq and ChIP-seq were to identify the molecular and epigenetic pathways affected by arginine starvation. Metabolomics and Seahorse Flux analyses were used to determine the metabolic profiles. A dietary arginine-restriction xenograft mouse model was developed to assess the effects of arginine starvation on tumor growth and inflammatory responses. Results: We showed that arginine starvation coordinately and epigenetically suppressed gene expressions, including those involved in oxidative phosphorylation and DNA repair, resulting in DNA damage, chromatin-leakage and cGAS-STING activation, accompanied by the upregulation of type I interferon response. We further demonstrated that arginine starvation-caused depletion of α-ketoglutarate and inactivation of histone demethylases are the underlying causes of epigenetic silencing. Significantly, our dietary arginine-restriction model showed that arginine starvation suppressed prostate cancer growth in vivo, with evidence of enhanced interferon responses and recruitment of immune cells. Conclusions: Arginine-starvation induces tumor cell killing by metabolite depletion and epigenetic silencing of metabolic genes, leading to DNA damage and chromatin leakage. The resulting cGAS-STING activation may further enhance these killing effects.
Keywords: Arginine starvation; DNA leakage; Epigenetic gene silencing; cGAS-STING activation.
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