Loss of the tumor suppressor Hace1 leads to ROS-dependent glutamine addiction

N. Cetinbas, M. Daugaard, A. R. Mullen, S. Hajee, B. Rotblat, A. Lopez, A. Li, R. J. DeBerardinis, P. H. Sorensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Cellular transformation is associated with altered glutamine (Gln) metabolism. Tumor cells utilize Gln in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle to maintain sufficient pools of biosynthetic precursors to support rapid growth and proliferation. However, Gln metabolism also generates NADPH, and Gln-derived glutamate is used for synthesis of glutathione (GSH). As both NADPH and GSH are antioxidants, Gln may also contribute to redox balance in transformed cells. The Hace1 E3 ligase is a tumor suppressor inactivated in diverse human cancers. Hace1 targets the Rac1 GTPase for degradation at Rac1-dependent NADPH oxidase complexes, blocking superoxide generation by the latter. Consequently, loss of Hace1 increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels in vitro and in vivo. Given the link between Hace1 loss and increased ROS, we investigated whether genetic inactivation of Hace1 alters Gln metabolism. We demonstrate that mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) derived from Hace1 -/- mice are highly sensitive to Gln withdrawal, leading to enhanced cell death compared with wild-type (wt) MEFs, and Gln depletion or chemical inhibition of Gln uptake blocks soft agar colony formation by Hace1 -/- MEFs. Hace1 -/- MEFs exhibit increased Gln uptake and ammonia secretion, and metabolic labeling using 13 C-Gln revealed that Hace1 loss increases incorporation of Gln carbons into the TCA cycle intermediates. Gln starvation markedly increases ROS levels in Hace1 -/- but not in wt MEFs, and treatment with the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine or the TCA cycle intermediate oxaloacetate efficiently rescues Gln starvation-induced ROS elevation and cell death in Hace1 -/- MEFs. Finally, Gln starvation increases superoxide levels in Hace1 -/- MEFs, and NADPH oxidase inhibitors block the induction of superoxide and cell death by Gln starvation. Together, these results suggest that increased ROS production due to Hace1 loss leads to Gln addiction as a mechanism to cope with increased ROS-induced oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4005-4010
Number of pages6
Issue number30
StatePublished - 23 Jul 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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