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Cancer Res. 2019 Aug 8. pii: canres.0708.2019. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0708. [Epub ahead of print]

CDK4 regulates lysosomal function and mTORC1 activation to promote cancer cell survival.

Author information

CIG, University of Lausanne.
DNF, University of Lausanne.
Center for integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne.
Oncology, University of Lausanne.
Department of Oncology, University of Lausanne.
CIG, University of Lausanne


Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) is well-known for its role in regulating the cell cycle, however, its role in cancer metabolism, especially mTOR signaling, is undefined. In this study, we established a connection between CDK4 and lysosomes, an emerging metabolic organelle crucial for mTORC1 activation. On the one hand, CDK4 phosphorylated the tumor suppressor FLCN, regulating mTORC1 recruitment to the lysosomal surface in response to amino acids. On the other hand, CDK4 directly regulated lysosomal function and was essential for lysosomal degradation, ultimately regulating mTORC1 activity. Pharmacological inhibition or genetic inactivation of CDK4, other than retaining FLCN at the lysosomal surface, led to the accumulation of undigested material inside lysosomes, which impaired the autophagic flux and induced cancer cell senescence in vitro and in xenograft models. Importantly, the use of CDK4 inhibitors in therapy is known to cause senescence but not cell death. To overcome this phenomenon and based on our findings, we increased the autophagic flux in cancer cells by using an AMPK activator in combination with a CDK4 inhibitor. The cotreatment induced autophagy (AMPK activation), and impaired lysosomal function (CDK4 inhibition), resulting in cell death and tumor regression. Altogether, we uncover a previously unknown role for CDK4 in lysosomal biology and propose a novel therapeutic strategy to target cancer cells.

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