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Biochem J. 2005 Mar 15;386(Pt 3):535-42.

Co-expression of glutaminase K and L isoenzymes in human tumour cells.

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Departamento de Biología Molecular y Bioquímica, Laboratorio de Química de Proteínas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, 29071 Málaga, Spain.


The pattern of expression of glutaminase isoenzymes in tumour cells has been investigated to clarify its role in the malignant transformation and the prospect of its use as a clinically relevant factor. Using leukaemia cells from medullar blood of human patients and several established human cancer cell lines, we have developed a competitive RT (reverse transcriptase)-PCR assay to quantify simultaneously K-type (kidney-type) and L-type (liver-type) glutaminase mRNAs. Co-expression of both transcripts and higher amounts of L-type mRNA were always found in all cancer cell types analysed. However, mature lymphocytes from the medullar blood of a patient suffering aplasia did not express the K-type transcript and showed a 15-fold increase of L-type transcript. Co-expression was also confirmed at the protein level using isoform-specific antibodies; nevertheless, it did not correlate with the relative abundance of glutaminase transcripts and strong K-type protein signals were detected. On the other hand, marked differences were found with regard to glutamate inhibition and phosphate activation of tumour glutaminase activity. Taken together, the protein data suggest that K isoform would account for the majority of glutaminase activity in these human tumour cells. The results confirm that simultaneous expression of both isoenzymes in human cancer cells is a more frequent event than previously thought. Furthermore, the present work and other previous data suggest that K isoform is up-regulated with increased rates of proliferation, whereas prevalence of the L isoform seems to be related with resting or quiescent cell states.

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