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Cell Commun Signal. 2019 Oct 21;17(1):131. doi: 10.1186/s12964-019-0447-y.

Inhibition of the key metabolic pathways, glycolysis and lipogenesis, of oral cancer by bitter melon extract.

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Department of Pathology, Saint Louis University, 1100 South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63104, USA.
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA.
Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO, USA.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, USA.
Department of Pathology, Saint Louis University, 1100 South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63104, USA.



Metabolic reprogramming is one of the hallmarks of cancer which favours rapid energy production, biosynthetic capabilities and therapy resistance. In our previous study, we showed bitter melon extract (BME) prevents carcinogen induced mouse oral cancer. RNA sequence analysis from mouse tongue revealed a significant modulation in "Metabolic Process" by altering glycolysis and lipid metabolic pathways in BME fed group as compared to cancer group. In present study, we evaluated the effect of BME on glycolysis and lipid metabolism pathways in human oral cancer cells.


Cal27 and JHU022 cells were treated with BME. RNA and protein expression were analysed for modulation of glycolytic and lipogenesis genes by quantitative real-time PCR, western blot analyses and immunofluorescence. Lactate and pyruvate level was determined by GC/MS. Extracellular acidification and glycolytic rate were measured using the Seahorse XF analyser. Shotgun lipidomics in Cal27 and JHU022 cell lines following BME treatment was performed by ESI/ MS. ROS was measured by FACS.


Treatment with BME on oral cancer cell lines significantly reduced mRNA and protein expression levels of key glycolytic genes SLC2A1 (GLUT-1), PFKP, LDHA, PKM and PDK3. Pyruvate and lactate levels and glycolysis rate were reduced in oral cancer cells following BME treatment. In lipogenesis pathway, we observed a significant reduction of genes involves in fatty acid biogenesis, ACLY, ACC1 and FASN, at the mRNA and protein levels following BME treatment. Further, BME treatment significantly reduced phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and plasmenylethanolamine, and reduced iPLA2 activity. Additionally, BME treatment inhibited lipid raft marker flotillin expression and altered its subcellular localization. ER-stress associated CHOP expression and generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species were induced by BME, which facilitated apoptosis.


Our study revealed that bitter melon extract inhibits glycolysis and lipid metabolism and induces ER and oxidative stress-mediated cell death in oral cancer. Thus, BME-mediated metabolic reprogramming of oral cancer cells will have important preventive and therapeutic implications along with conventional therapies.


Bitter melon extract; Glycolysis; Lipid metabolism; Oral cancer; Phosphatidylcholine; Phosphatidylethanolamine; ROS

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