Research Papers:

Glucose availability controls ATF4-mediated MITF suppression to drive melanoma cell growth

Jennifer Ferguson, Michael Smith, Isabel Zudaire, Claudia Wellbrock and Imanol Arozarena _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:32946-32959. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.16514

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Jennifer Ferguson1, Michael Smith1, Isabel Zudaire2, Claudia Wellbrock1, Imanol Arozarena1,2

1Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, M13 9PT, Manchester, UK

2Navarrabiomed-Fundación Miguel Servet-Idisna, Calle Irunlarrea, 3 Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra, 31008, Pamplona, Spain

Correspondence to:

Imanol Arozarena, email: [email protected]

Claudia Wellbrock, email: [email protected]

Keywords: melanoma, glucose, MITF, ATF4, ROS

Received: September 18, 2016     Accepted: March 13, 2017     Published: March 23, 2017


It is well know that cancer cells have adopted an altered metabolism and that glucose is a major source of energy for these cells. In melanoma, enhanced glucose usage is favoured through the hyper-activated MAPK pathway, which suppresses OXPHOS and stimulates glycolysis. However, it has not been addressed how glucose availability impacts on melanoma specific signaling pathways that drive melanoma cell proliferation. Here we show that melanoma cells are dependent on high glucose levels for efficient growth. Thereby, glucose metabolism controls the expression of the melanoma fate transcription factor MITF, a master regulator of melanoma cell survival and proliferation, invasion and therapy resistance. Restriction of glucose availability to physiological concentrations induces the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Increased ROS levels lead to the up-regulation of AFT4, which in turn suppresses MITF expression by competing with CREB, an otherwise potent inducer of the MITF promoter. Our data give new insight into the complex regulation of MITF, a key regulator of melanoma biology, and support previous findings that link metabolic disorders such as hyperglycemia and diabetes with increased melanoma risk.

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