Genetic impairment of succinate metabolism disrupts bioenergetic sensing in adrenal neuroendocrine cancer

Cell Rep. 2022 Aug 16;40(7):111218. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111218.


Metabolic dysfunction mutations can impair energy sensing and cause cancer. Loss of function of the mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle enzyme subunit succinate dehydrogenase B (SDHB) results in various forms of cancer typified by pheochromocytoma (PC). Here we delineate a signaling cascade where the loss of SDHB induces the Warburg effect, triggers dysregulation of [Ca2+]i, and aberrantly activates calpain and protein kinase Cdk5, through conversion of its cofactor from p35 to p25. Consequently, aberrant Cdk5 initiates a phospho-signaling cascade where GSK3 inhibition inactivates energy sensing by AMP kinase through dephosphorylation of the AMP kinase γ subunit, PRKAG2. Overexpression of p25-GFP in mouse adrenal chromaffin cells also elicits this phosphorylation signaling and causes PC. A potent Cdk5 inhibitor, MRT3-007, reverses this phospho-cascade, invoking a senescence-like phenotype. This therapeutic approach halted tumor progression in vivo. Thus, we reveal an important mechanistic feature of metabolic sensing and demonstrate that its dysregulation underlies tumor progression in PC and likely other cancers.

Keywords: AMPK; CP: Cancer; CP: Metabolism; Cdk5; PRKAG2; SDHB; Warburg effect; cancer bioenergetics; neuroendocrine tumor; p53; pheochromocytoma; senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenylate Kinase* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Succinates


  • Succinates
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • Adenylate Kinase