Radiotherapy is one of the curative treatment options for localized prostate cancer (PCa). The curative potential of radiotherapy is mediated by irradiation-induced oxidative stress and DNA damage in tumor cells. However, PCa radiocurability can be impeded by tumor resistance mechanisms and normal tissue toxicity. Metabolic reprogramming is one of the major hallmarks of tumor progression and therapy resistance. Specific metabolic features of PCa might serve as therapeutic targets for tumor radiosensitization and as biomarkers for identifying the patients most likely to respond to radiotherapy. The study aimed to characterize a potential role of glutaminase (GLS)-driven glutamine catabolism as a prognostic biomarker and a therapeutic target for PCa radiosensitization. Methods: We analyzed primary cell cultures and radioresistant (RR) derivatives of the conventional PCa cell lines by gene expression and metabolic assays to identify the molecular traits associated with radiation resistance. Relative radiosensitivity of the cell lines and primary cell cultures were analyzed by 2-D and 3-D clonogenic analyses. Targeting of glutamine (Gln) metabolism was achieved by Gln starvation, gene knockdown, and chemical inhibition. Activation of the DNA damage response (DDR) and autophagy was assessed by gene expression, western blotting, and fluorescence microscopy. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the ratio of reduced glutathione (GSH) to oxidized glutathione (GSSG) were analyzed by fluorescence and luminescence probes, respectively. Cancer stem cell (CSC) properties were investigated by sphere-forming assay, CSC marker analysis, and in vivo limiting dilution assays. Single circulating tumor cells (CTCs) isolated from the blood of PCa patients were analyzed by array comparative genome hybridization. Expression levels of the GLS1 and MYC gene in tumor tissues and amino acid concentrations in blood plasma were correlated to a progression-free survival in PCa patients. Results: Here, we found that radioresistant PCa cells and prostate CSCs have a high glutamine demand. GLS-driven catabolism of glutamine serves not only for energy production but also for the maintenance of the redox state. Consequently, glutamine depletion or inhibition of critical regulators of glutamine utilization, such as GLS and the transcription factor MYC results in PCa radiosensitization. On the contrary, we found that a combination of glutamine metabolism inhibitors with irradiation does not cause toxic effects on nonmalignant prostate cells. Glutamine catabolism contributes to the maintenance of CSCs through regulation of the alpha-ketoglutarate (α-KG)-dependent chromatin-modifying dioxygenase. The lack of glutamine results in the inhibition of CSCs with a high aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity, decreases the frequency of the CSC populations in vivo and reduces tumor formation in xenograft mouse models. Moreover, this study shows that activation of the ATG5-mediated autophagy in response to a lack of glutamine is a tumor survival strategy to withstand radiation-mediated cell damage. In combination with autophagy inhibition, the blockade of glutamine metabolism might be a promising strategy for PCa radiosensitization. High blood levels of glutamine in PCa patients significantly correlate with a shorter prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time. Furthermore, high expression of critical regulators of glutamine metabolism, GLS1 and MYC, is significantly associated with a decreased progression-free survival in PCa patients treated with radiotherapy. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that GLS-driven glutaminolysis is a prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for PCa radiosensitization.
Keywords: Autophagy; Cancer stem cells; GLS1; Prostate cancer; Radioresistance.
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