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      Triglycerides Promote Lipid Homeostasis during Hypoxic Stress by Balancing Fatty Acid Saturation


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          Lipid droplets, which store triglycerides and cholesterol esters, are a prominent feature of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Although their presence in ccRCC is critical for sustained tumorigenesis, their contribution to lipid homeostasis and tumor cell viability is incompletely understood. Here we show that disrupting triglyceride synthesis compromises the growth of both ccRCC tumors and ccRCC cells exposed to tumor-like conditions. Functionally, hypoxia leads to increased fatty acid saturation through inhibition of the oxygen-dependent stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD) enzyme. Triglycerides counter a toxic buildup of saturated lipids, primarily by releasing the unsaturated fatty acid oleate (the principal product of SCD activity) from lipid droplets into phospholipid pools. Disrupting this process derails lipid homeostasis, causing overproduction of toxic saturated ceramides and acyl-carnitines as well as activation of the NF-κB transcription factor. Our work demonstrates that triglycerides promote homeostasis by “buffering” specific fatty acids.

          Graphical Abstract


          • Hypoxia influences the FA composition of TGs more than other lipid classes

          • TGs maintain the cell’s FA saturation index by active oleate exchange

          • Release of TG-resident oleate during hypoxia prevents production of toxic lipids

          • Disrupting TG synthesis compromises tumor growth


          Tumors frequently experience hypoxia and serum limitation, which cause a harmful increase in fatty acid saturation. Studying kidney cancer, Ackerman et al. describe a protective role of lipid droplet-resident triglycerides: buffering of the cellular lipid saturation through exchange of mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Inhibiting triglyceride synthesis compromises solid tumor growth.

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          Most cited references15

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          Pancreatic cancers require autophagy for tumor growth.

          Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a regulated catabolic pathway to degrade cellular organelles and macromolecules. The role of autophagy in cancer is complex and may differ depending on tumor type or context. Here we show that pancreatic cancers have a distinct dependence on autophagy. Pancreatic cancer primary tumors and cell lines show elevated autophagy under basal conditions. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of autophagy leads to increased reactive oxygen species, elevated DNA damage, and a metabolic defect leading to decreased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Together, these ultimately result in significant growth suppression of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. Most importantly, inhibition of autophagy by genetic means or chloroquine treatment leads to robust tumor regression and prolonged survival in pancreatic cancer xenografts and genetic mouse models. These results suggest that, unlike in other cancers where autophagy inhibition may synergize with chemotherapy or targeted agents by preventing the up-regulation of autophagy as a reactive survival mechanism, autophagy is actually required for tumorigenic growth of pancreatic cancers de novo, and drugs that inactivate this process may have a unique clinical utility in treating pancreatic cancers and other malignancies with a similar dependence on autophagy. As chloroquine and its derivatives are potent inhibitors of autophagy and have been used safely in human patients for decades for a variety of purposes, these results are immediately translatable to the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients, and provide a much needed, novel vantage point of attack.
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            Monoacylglycerol lipase regulates a fatty acid network that promotes cancer pathogenesis.

            Tumor cells display progressive changes in metabolism that correlate with malignancy, including development of a lipogenic phenotype. How stored fats are liberated and remodeled to support cancer pathogenesis, however, remains unknown. Here, we show that the enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) is highly expressed in aggressive human cancer cells and primary tumors, where it regulates a fatty acid network enriched in oncogenic signaling lipids that promotes migration, invasion, survival, and in vivo tumor growth. Overexpression of MAGL in nonaggressive cancer cells recapitulates this fatty acid network and increases their pathogenicity-phenotypes that are reversed by an MAGL inhibitor. Impairments in MAGL-dependent tumor growth are rescued by a high-fat diet, indicating that exogenous sources of fatty acids can contribute to malignancy in cancers lacking MAGL activity. Together, these findings reveal how cancer cells can co-opt a lipolytic enzyme to translate their lipogenic state into an array of protumorigenic signals. PAPERFLICK:
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              Fatty acid uptake and lipid storage induced by HIF-1α contribute to cell growth and survival after hypoxia-reoxygenation.

              An in vivo model of antiangiogenic therapy allowed us to identify genes upregulated by bevacizumab treatment, including Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3 (FABP3) and FABP7, both of which are involved in fatty acid uptake. In vitro, both were induced by hypoxia in a hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α)-dependent manner. There was a significant lipid droplet (LD) accumulation in hypoxia that was time and O2 concentration dependent. Knockdown of endogenous expression of FABP3, FABP7, or Adipophilin (an essential LD structural component) significantly impaired LD formation under hypoxia. We showed that LD accumulation is due to FABP3/7-dependent fatty acid uptake while de novo fatty acid synthesis is repressed in hypoxia. We also showed that ATP production occurs via β-oxidation or glycogen degradation in a cell-type-dependent manner in hypoxia-reoxygenation. Finally, inhibition of lipid storage reduced protection against reactive oxygen species toxicity, decreased the survival of cells subjected to hypoxia-reoxygenation in vitro, and strongly impaired tumorigenesis in vivo.

                Author and article information

                Cell Rep
                Cell Rep
                Cell Reports
                Cell Press
                04 September 2018
                04 September 2018
                04 September 2018
                : 24
                : 10
                : 2596-2605.e5
                [1 ]Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
                [2 ]Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Garscube Estate, Switchback Road, Glasgow G61 1BD, UK
                [3 ]Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow, Garscube Estate, Switchback Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK
                Author notes
                []Corresponding author celeste2@ 123456pennmedicine.upenn.edu
                [∗∗ ]Corresponding author jurre.kamphorst@ 123456glasgow.ac.uk

                These authors contributed equally


                Lead Contact

                © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 29 June 2017
                : 20 June 2018
                : 6 August 2018

                Cell biology
                cancer metabolism,clear cell renal cell carcinoma,diglyceride acyltransferase,fatty acid saturation,hypoxia,lipid droplets,lipid homeostasis,lipidomics,stable isotope tracing,triglycerides


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