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J Biol Chem. 2010 Aug 13;285(33):25308-13. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.146480. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

Up-regulation of the ATPase inhibitory factor 1 (IF1) of the mitochondrial H+-ATP synthase in human tumors mediates the metabolic shift of cancer cells to a Warburg phenotype.

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  • 1Departamento de Biología Molecular, Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, ISCIII, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


The H(+)-ATP synthase is a reversible engine of mitochondria that synthesizes or hydrolyzes ATP upon changes in cell physiology. ATP synthase dysfunction is involved in the onset and progression of diverse human pathologies. During ischemia, the ATP hydrolytic activity of the enzyme is inhibited by the ATPase inhibitory factor 1 (IF1). The expression of IF1 in human tissues and its participation in the development of human pathology are unknown. Here, we have developed monoclonal antibodies against human IF1 and determined its expression in paired normal and tumor biopsies of human carcinomas. We show that the relative mitochondrial content of IF1 increases significantly in carcinomas, suggesting the participation of IF1 in oncogenesis. The expression of IF1 varies significantly in cancer cell lines. To investigate the functional activity of IF1 in cancer, we have manipulated its cellular content. Overexpression of IF1 or of its pH-insensitive H49K mutant in cells that express low levels of IF1 triggers the up-regulation of aerobic glycolysis and the inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation with concurrent mitochondrial hyperpolarization. Treatment of the cells with the H(+)-ATP synthase inhibitor oligomycin mimicked the effects of IF1 overexpression. Conversely, small interfering RNA-mediated silencing of IF1 in cells that express high levels of IF1 promotes the down-regulation of aerobic glycolysis and the increase in oxidative phosphorylation. Overall, these findings support that the mitochondrial content of IF1 controls the activity of oxidative phosphorylation mediating the shift of cancer cells to an enhanced aerobic glycolysis, thus supporting an oncogenic role for the de-regulated expression of IF1 in cancer.

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