Lipid reprogramming induced by the TFEB-ERRα axis enhanced membrane fluidity to promote EC progression

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2022 Jan 19;41(1):28. doi: 10.1186/s13046-021-02211-2.


Background: Estrogen-related receptor α (ERRα) has been reported to play a critical role in endometrial cancer (EC) progression. However, the underlying mechanism of ERRα-mediated lipid reprogramming in EC remains elusive. The transcription factor EB (TFEB)-ERRα axis induces lipid reprogramming to promote progression of EC was explored in this study.

Methods: TFEB and ERRα were analyzed and validated by RNA-sequencing data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). The TFEB-ERRα axis was assessed by dual-luciferase reporter and chromatin immunoprecipitation quantitative polymerase chain reaction (ChIP-qPCR). The mechanism was investigated using loss-of-function and gain-of-function assays in vitro. Lipidomics and proteomics were performed to identify the TFEB-ERRα-related lipid metabolism pathway. Pseudopods were observed by scanning electron microscope. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry and lipidomics were performed in clinical tissue samples to validate the ERRα-related lipids.

Results: TFEB and ERRα were highly expressed in EC patients and correlated to EC progression. ERRα is the direct target of TFEB to mediate EC lipid metabolism. TFEB-ERRα axis mainly affected glycerophospholipids (GPs) and significantly elevated the ratio of phosphatidylcholine (PC)/sphingomyelin (SM), which indicated the enhanced membrane fluidity. TFEB-ERRα axis induced the mitochondria specific phosphatidylglycerol (PG) (18:1/22:6) + H increasing. The lipid reprogramming was mainly related to mitochondrial function though combining lipidomics and proteomics. The maximum oxygen consumption rate (OCR), ATP and lipid-related genes acc, fasn, and acadm were found to be positively correlated with TFEB/ERRα. TFEB-ERRα axis enhanced generation of pseudopodia to increase the invasiveness. Mechanistically, our functional assays indicated that TFEB promoted EC cell migration in an ERRα-dependent manner via EMT signaling. Consistent with the in vitro, higher PC (18:1/18:2) + HCOO was found in EC patients, and those with higher TFEB/ERRα had deeper myometrial invasion and lower serum HDL levels. Importantly, PC (18:1/18:2) + HCOO was an independent risk factor positively related to ERRα for lymph node metastasis.

Conclusion: Lipid reprogramming induced by the TFEB-ERRα axis increases unsaturated fatty acid (UFA)-containing PCs, PG, PC/SM and pseudopodia, which enhance membrane fluidity via EMT signaling to promote EC progression. PG (18:1/22:6) + H induced by TFEB-ERRα axis was involved in tumorigenesis and PC (18:1/18:2) + HCOO was the ERRα-dependent lipid to mediate EC metastasis.

Keywords: EMT signaling; ERRα; Endometrial cancer; Lipid reprogramming; Mitochondrial stress; TFEB.

MeSH terms

  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology
  • Disease Progression
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Membrane Fluidity / physiology*


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • TFEB protein, human