Argininosuccinate lyase is a metabolic vulnerability in breast development and cancer

NPJ Syst Biol Appl. 2021 Sep 17;7(1):36. doi: 10.1038/s41540-021-00195-5.


Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is fundamental to both normal tissue development and cancer progression. We hypothesized that EMT plasticity defines a range of metabolic phenotypes and that individual breast epithelial metabolic phenotypes are likely to fall within this phenotypic landscape. To determine EMT metabolic phenotypes, the metabolism of EMT was described within genome-scale metabolic models (GSMMs) using either transcriptomic or proteomic data from the breast epithelial EMT cell culture model D492. The ability of the different data types to describe breast epithelial metabolism was assessed using constraint-based modeling which was subsequently verified using 13C isotope tracer analysis. The application of proteomic data to GSMMs provided relatively higher accuracy in flux predictions compared to the transcriptomic data. Furthermore, the proteomic GSMMs predicted altered cholesterol metabolism and increased dependency on argininosuccinate lyase (ASL) following EMT which were confirmed in vitro using drug assays and siRNA knockdown experiments. The successful verification of the proteomic GSMMs afforded iBreast2886, a breast GSMM that encompasses the metabolic plasticity of EMT as defined by the D492 EMT cell culture model. Analysis of breast tumor proteomic data using iBreast2886 identified vulnerabilities within arginine metabolism that allowed prognostic discrimination of breast cancer patients on a subtype-specific level. Taken together, we demonstrate that the metabolic reconstruction iBreast2886 formalizes the metabolism of breast epithelial cell development and can be utilized as a tool for the functional interpretation of high throughput clinical data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't