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PLoS One. 2019 Jun 12;14(6):e0218126. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218126. eCollection 2019.

Obesity-associated, but not obesity-independent, tumors respond to insulin by increasing mitochondrial glucose oxidation.

Author information

1
Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.
2
Department of Cellular & Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.

Abstract

Obesity is associated with increased incidence and worse prognosis of more than one dozen tumor types; however, the molecular mechanisms for this association remain under debate. We hypothesized that insulin, which is elevated in obesity-driven insulin resistance, would increase tumor glucose oxidation in obesity-associated tumors. To test this hypothesis, we applied and validated a stable isotope method to measure the ratio of pyruvate dehydrogenase flux to citrate synthase flux (VPDH/VCS, i.e. the percent of total mitochondrial oxidation fueled by glucose) in tumor cells. Using this method, we found that three tumor cell lines associated with obesity (colon cancer [MC38], breast cancer [4T1], and prostate cancer [TRAMP-C3] cells) increase VPDH/VCS in response to physiologic concentrations of insulin. In contrast, three tumor cell lines that are not associated with obesity (melanoma [YUMM1.7], B cell lymphoma [BCL1 clone 5B1b], and small cell lung cancer [NCI-H69] cells) exhibited no oxidative response to insulin. The observed increase in glucose oxidation in response to insulin correlated with a dose-dependent increase in cell division in obesity-associated tumor cell lines when grown in insulin, whereas no alteration in cell division was seen in tumor types not associated with obesity. These data reveal that a shift in substrate preference in the setting of physiologic insulin may comprise a metabolic signature of obesity-associated tumors that differs from that of those not associated with obesity.

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