A Short Isoform of Spermatogenic Enzyme GAPDHS Functions as a Metabolic Switch and Limits Metastasis in Melanoma

Cancer Res. 2022 Apr 1;82(7):1251-1266. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-2062.


Despite being the leading cause of cancer deaths, metastasis remains a poorly understood process. To identify novel regulators of metastasis in melanoma, we performed a large-scale RNA sequencing screen of 48 samples from patient-derived xenograft (PDX) subcutaneous melanomas and their associated metastases. In comparison with primary tumors, expression of glycolytic genes was frequently decreased in metastases, whereas expression of some tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle genes was increased in metastases. Consistent with these transcriptional changes, melanoma metastases underwent a metabolic switch characterized by decreased levels of glycolytic metabolites and increased abundance of TCA cycle metabolites. A short isoform of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, spermatogenic (GAPDHS) lacking the N-terminal domain suppressed metastasis and regulated this metabolic switch. GAPDHS was downregulated in metastatic nodules from PDX models as well as in human patients. Overexpression of GAPDHS was sufficient to block melanoma metastasis, whereas its inhibition promoted metastasis, decreased glycolysis, and increased levels of certain TCA cycle metabolites and their derivatives including citrate, fumarate, malate, and aspartate. Isotope tracing studies indicated that GAPDHS mediates this shift through changes in pyruvate carboxylase activity and aspartate synthesis, both metabolic pathways critical for cancer survival and metastasis. Together, these data identify a short isoform of GAPDHS that limits melanoma metastasis and regulates central carbon metabolism.

Significance: This study characterizes metabolic changes during cancer metastasis and identifies GAPDHS as a novel regulator of these processes in melanoma cells.

MeSH terms

  • Citric Acid Cycle
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (Phosphorylating)
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases* / genetics
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases* / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis


  • Protein Isoforms
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases
  • GAPDHS protein, human
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (Phosphorylating)