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Metabolic protein launches sugar feast that nurtures brain tumors
Date:11/26/2012

sticking a phosphate group to a specific spot on PKM2.

  • Phosphorylation priming PKM2 for a series of steps that culminate in its binding to the protein importin, which lives up to its name by taking PKM2 through the nuclear membrane.

    Once in the nucleus, the team showed that PKM2 activates two genes crucial to aerobic glycolysis and another that splices PKM RNA to make even more PKM2.

    An experiment applying several kinase-inhibiting drugs to human glioblastoma cell lines showed that only a MEK/ERK inhibitor prevented EGF-induced smuggling of PKM2 into the nucleus. ERK activation then is mandatory for PKM2 to get into the nucleus.

    "MEK/ERK inhibitors have not been tried yet in glioblastoma multiforme," Lu said. Phosporylated PKM2 is a potential biomarker to identify patients who are candidates for MEK/ERK inhibitors once those drugs are developed.

    MEK inhibitor blocks tumor growth

    The researchers also found that the two glycolysis genes activated by PKM2, called GLUT1 and LDHA, are required for glucose consumption and conversion of pyruvate to lactate, crucial factors in the Warburg Effect. Depleting PKM2 in tumor cell lines reduced glucose consumption and lactate production.

    In mice, depleting PKM2 blocked the growth of brain tumors. Re-expressing the wild type protein caused tumors to grow. However, re-expression of a PKM2 mutant protein that lost its ability to get into the nucleus failed to promote tumor formation. Experiments in human glioblastoma cell lines showed the same effect.

    Injecting the MEK inhibitor selumetinib into tumors inhibited tumor growth, reduced ERK phosphorylation, PKM2 expression and lactate production in mice. In 48 human tumor samples, the team found that activity of EGFR, ERK1/2 and PKM2 were strongly correlated.

    Cause of PKM2 overexpression

    Lu and colleagues also published a paper in Molecular Cell that revealed a mech
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  • Contact: Scott Merville
    smerville@mdanderson.org
    713-792-0661
    University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
    Source:Eurekalert  

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