Research Papers:

Nuclear PKM2 promotes the progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma by inducing EMT and post-translationally repressing TGIF2

Fumie Tanaka, Shohei Yoshimoto, Kazuhiko Okamura, Tetsuro Ikebe and Shuichi Hashimoto _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:33745-33761. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25850

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Fumie Tanaka1,2,*, Shohei Yoshimoto1,*, Kazuhiko Okamura1, Tetsuro Ikebe2 and Shuichi Hashimoto1

1Section of Pathology, Department of Morphological Biology, Division of Biomedical Sciences, Fukuoka Dental College, Tamura, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka 814-0193, Japan

2Section of Oral Surgery, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Division of Oral and Medical Management, Fukuoka Dental College, Tamura, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka 814-0193, Japan

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Shuichi Hashimoto, email: [email protected]

Keywords: PKM2; EMT; TGIF2; oral squamous cell carcinoma; Warburg effect

Received: February 23, 2018     Accepted: July 12, 2018     Published: September 18, 2018


Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2), a glycolytic enzyme, acts as a metabolic function leading to an energy production critical for cancer progression, known as Warburg effect. In this study we showed a pivotal role of PKM2 acting as a non-metabolic function to promote cancer cell progression in human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) through the induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is crucial for the potential in cancer cell invasion, and post-translational TGIF2 degradation. PKM2 immunoreaction was strong in the cytoplasm of invasive cancer cells, and distinct in the nucleus of spindle-shaped cancer cells with EMT characteristics. TGIF2 nuclear immunoreaction was seen in dysplastic epithelial cells but was repressed in cancer cells. In vitro analyses, cytoplasmic expression of PKM2 was translocated into the nucleus in human OSCC derived HSC-4 and SAS cells when EMT was stimulated. In addition, nuclear expression of TGIF2 was distinctively repressed in EMT induced HSC-4 and SAS cells. We recognized a mismatch in TGIF2 protein and mRNA expression in EMT induced HSC-4 and SAS cells and found that TGIF2 protein was post-translationally degraded through a ubiquitin proteasome system by an MG132 proteasome inhibition assay. Finally, promotion of HSC-4 and SAS cell progression by PKM2 was recognized in PKM2 knockdown assays. Thus, we clarified a new mechanism of non-metabolic function of PKM2 to promote the progression of OSCC through PKM2 nuclear translocation, subsequently induced EMT, and post-translationally repressed TGIF2 expression by a ubiquitin proteasome system.

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