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Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Nov;12(11):2581-90. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-13-0302. Epub 2013 Aug 26.

Arginine deiminase resistance in melanoma cells is associated with metabolic reprogramming, glucose dependence, and glutamine addiction.

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Corresponding Author: Macus Tien Kuo, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Box 951, Houston, TX 77030.


Many malignant human tumors, including melanomas, are auxotrophic for arginine due to reduced expression of argininosuccinate synthetase-1 (ASS1), the rate-limiting enzyme for arginine biosynthesis. Pegylated arginine deiminase (ADI-PEG20), which degrades extracellular arginine, resulting in arginine deprivation, has shown favorable results in clinical trials for treating arginine-auxotrophic tumors. Drug resistance is the major obstacle for effective ADI-PEG20 usage. To elucidate mechanisms of resistance, we established several ADI-PEG20-resistant (ADI(R)) variants from A2058 and SK-Mel-2 melanoma cells. Compared with the parental lines, these ADI(R) variants showed the following characteristics: (i) all ADI(R) cell lines showed elevated ASS1 expression, resulting from the constitutive binding of the transcription factor c-Myc on the ASS1 promoter, suggesting that elevated ASS1 is the major mechanism of resistance; (ii) the ADI(R) cell lines exhibited enhanced AKT signaling and were preferentially sensitive to PI3K/AKT inhibitors, but reduced mTOR signaling, and were preferentially resistant to mTOR inhibitor; (iii) these variants showed enhanced expression of glucose transporter-1 and lactate dehydrogenase-A, reduced expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase, and elevated sensitivity to the glycolytic inhibitors 2-deoxy-glucose and 3-bromopyruvate, consistent with the enhanced glycolytic pathway (the Warburg effect); (iv) the resistant cells showed higher glutamine dehydrogenase and glutaminase expression and were preferentially vulnerable to glutamine inhibitors. We showed that c-Myc, not elevated ASS1 expression, is involved in upregulation of many of these enzymes because knockdown of c-Myc reduced their expression, whereas overexpressed ASS1 by transfection reduced their expression. This study identified multiple targets for overcoming ADI-PEG resistance in cancer chemotherapy using recombinant arginine-degrading enzymes.

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