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Monocarboxylate Transporter 1 modulates cancer cell pyruvate export and tumor growth

  • Author(s): Hong, Candice Sun
  • Advisor(s): Christofk, Heather R
  • et al.

Many cancers rely on glycolytic metabolism to fuel rapid proliferation. This has spurred interest in designing drugs that target tumor glycolysis such as AZD3965, a small molecule inhibitor of Monocarboxylate Transporter 1 (MCT1) currently undergoing Phase I evaluation for cancer treatment. Since MCT1 mediates proton-linked transport of monocarboxylates such as lactate and pyruvate across the plasma membrane (Halestrap and Meredith, 2004), AZD3965 is thought to block tumor growth through disruption of lactate transport and glycolysis. Here we show that MCT1 inhibition impairs proliferation of glycolytic breast cancer cells that express MCT4 via disruption of pyruvate rather than lactate export. We found that MCT1 expression is elevated in glycolytic breast tumors and cell lines as well as in malignant breast and lung tissues. High MCT1 expression predicts poor prognosis in breast and lung cancer patients. Stable knockdown and AZD3965-mediated inhibition of MCT1 promote oxidative metabolism. Acute inhibition of MCT1 reduces pyruvate export rate but does not consistently alter lactate transport or glycolytic flux in breast cancer cells that also express MCT4. Despite the lack of glycolysis impairment, MCT1 loss-of-function decreases breast cancer cell proliferation and blocks growth of mammary fat pad xenograft tumors. Our data suggest that MCT1 expression is elevated in glycolytic cancers to promote pyruvate export, which when inhibited enhances oxidative metabolism and reduces proliferation. This study presents an alternative molecular consequence of MCT1 inhibitors that further supports their use as anti-cancer therapeutics.

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