Lysine catabolism reprograms tumour immunity through histone crotonylation

Nature. 2023 May;617(7962):818-826. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06061-0. Epub 2023 May 17.


Cancer cells rewire metabolism to favour the generation of specialized metabolites that support tumour growth and reshape the tumour microenvironment1,2. Lysine functions as a biosynthetic molecule, energy source and antioxidant3-5, but little is known about its pathological role in cancer. Here we show that glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) reprogram lysine catabolism through the upregulation of lysine transporter SLC7A2 and crotonyl-coenzyme A (crotonyl-CoA)-producing enzyme glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase (GCDH) with downregulation of the crotonyl-CoA hydratase enoyl-CoA hydratase short chain 1 (ECHS1), leading to accumulation of intracellular crotonyl-CoA and histone H4 lysine crotonylation. A reduction in histone lysine crotonylation by either genetic manipulation or lysine restriction impaired tumour growth. In the nucleus, GCDH interacts with the crotonyltransferase CBP to promote histone lysine crotonylation. Loss of histone lysine crotonylation promotes immunogenic cytosolic double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and dsDNA generation through enhanced H3K27ac, which stimulates the RNA sensor MDA5 and DNA sensor cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) to boost type I interferon signalling, leading to compromised GSC tumorigenic potential and elevated CD8+ T cell infiltration. A lysine-restricted diet synergized with MYC inhibition or anti-PD-1 therapy to slow tumour growth. Collectively, GSCs co-opt lysine uptake and degradation to shunt the production of crotonyl-CoA, remodelling the chromatin landscape to evade interferon-induced intrinsic effects on GSC maintenance and extrinsic effects on immune response.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Glutaryl-CoA Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Histones* / chemistry
  • Histones* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Lysine* / deficiency
  • Lysine* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / immunology


  • Chromatin
  • Glutaryl-CoA Dehydrogenase
  • Histones
  • Lysine
  • crotonyl-coenzyme A
  • SLC7A2 protein, human
  • ECHS1 protein, human
  • bone sialoprotein (35-62), human
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • IFIH1 protein, human
  • cGAS protein, human
  • Interferon Type I
  • MYC protein, human
  • PDCD1 protein, human