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J Pathol. 2015 Jan;235(1):90-100. doi: 10.1002/path.4429. Epub 2014 Oct 6.

ATF4 and N-Myc coordinate glutamine metabolism in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells through ASCT2 activation.

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Basic Medicine, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, People's Republic of China.

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Amplification of the MYCN gene in human neuroblastoma predicts poor prognosis and resistance to therapy. We previously showed that MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells constantly require large amounts of glutamine to support their unabated growth. However, the identity and regulation of the transporter(s) that capture glutamine in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells and the clinical significance of the transporter(s) in neuroblastoma diagnosis remain largely unknown. Here, we performed a systemic glutamine influx analysis and identified that MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells predominantly rely on activation of ASCT2 (solute carrier family 1 member 5, SLC1A5) to maintain sufficient levels of glutamine essential for the TCA cycle anaplerosis. Consequently, ASCT2 depletion profoundly inhibited glutaminolysis, concomitant with a substantial decrease in cell proliferation and viability in vitro and inhibition of tumourigenesis in vivo. Mechanistically, we identified ATF4 as a novel regulator which coordinates with N-Myc to directly activate ASCT2 expression. Of note, ASCT2 expression, which correlates with that of N-Myc and ATF4, is markedly elevated in high-stage neuroblastoma tumour samples compared with low-stage ones. More importantly, high ASCT2 expression is significantly associated with poor prognosis and survival of neuroblastoma patients. In aggregate, these findings elucidate a novel mechanism depicting how cell autonomous insults (MYCN amplification) and microenvironmental stresses (ATF4 induction) in concert coordinate ASCT2 activation to promote aggressive neuroblastoma progression, and establish ASCT2 as a novel biomarker in patient prognosis and stratification.


ASCT2; ATF4; N-Myc; glutamine; tumour metabolism

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