bims-momema Biomed News
on Molecular mechanisms of macropinocytosis
Issue of 2022‒02‒20
seven papers selected by
Harilaos Filippakis
Harvard University

  1. Theranostics. 2022 ;12(3): 1321-1332
      KRAS mutations are one of the most common gene mutations linked to cancer, presenting in approximately 25% of all tumors, especially pancreatic, lung, and colorectal cancers. Mutant KRAS has long been considered an undruggable target, stalling progress in direct KRAS targeting for many years, while targeted drug delivery into KRAS mutant cells utilizing their transformed metabolic behavior might present an alternative opportunity. Macropinocytosis, a nonselective, fluid-phase, endocytic route, was found to be upregulated as a metabolic feature in KRAS-driven tumors and plays a critical role in nutrient acquisition from extracellular fluids. With the observation that a variety of drug delivery systems could be internalized by KRAS mutant cancer cells through macropinocytosis, exploiting macropinocytosis for intracellular delivery of therapeutics into KRAS mutant tumor cells is emerging as a new drug delivery expedition. In this article, we summarized cancer biology studies that examined KRAS mutation-induced macropinocytosis, reviewed recent studies exploiting macropinocytosis enhancement for KRAS mutant cancer cell-selective drug delivery, and discussed the potential opportunities, challenges and pitfalls of this strategy.
    Keywords:  KRAS; Macropinocytosis; drug delivery; pancreatic cancer
  2. Theranostics. 2022 ;12(3): 1061-1073
      Background: Pancreatic cancer comprises not only cancer cells but also a collection of cross-talking noncancerous cells within tumor. Therefore, selective delivery of cytotoxic agents towards cancer cells and limiting the collateral damage to tumor suppressive benign cells, such as effector lymphocytes in the tumor microenvironment, is of great value. Methods: Pancreatic cancer cells harbor oncogenic KRAS which induces a constitutively high level of macropinocytosis. Inspired by such uniquity, we sought to explore the targeting potential of dextran, a biomaterial presumed to be endocytosed in the macropinocytosis dependent manner. Cell entry preference, mechanism and subcellular sorting of dextran with different molecular weights were firstly examined. Triptolide (TP), a potent cytotoxin was then set as the model payload for dextran conjugation. KRAS selectivity and the therapeutic effects of dextran-conjugated TP were investigated via both in vitro cellular studies and in vivo tumor model assessment. Results: Dextran, with a specific molecular weight of 70 kDa rather than other weights, was identified as a robust KRAS-responsive intracellular delivery carrier with enhanced entry upon KRAS mutation. The 70 kDa dextran-conjugated TP (DEX-TP) displayed greater efficacy and cellular deposition efficiency towards KRAS mutant cells than KRAS wild-type cells. Treatment with DEX-TP suppressed tumor progression in KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer orthotopic mouse models with reduced toxicity and significantly extended mouse survival time. Furthermore, the conjugate attained a more favorable therapeutic outcome in the tumor immune microenvironment than the free drug, preserving the fraction of T cells and their effector cytokines. Conclusions: In summary, macropinocytic dextran was able to provide drug delivery selectivity towards KRAS mutant cancer cells and reduce tumor immunity depletion caused by the cytotoxic drug in pancreatic cancer.
    Keywords:  KRAS mutation; Pancreatic cancer; dextran; targeted drug delivery; tumor microenvironment
  3. Front Oncol. 2022 ;12 820173
      Metabolic reprogramming is one of the hallmarks of tumor. Growing evidence suggests metabolic changes that support oncogenic progression may cause selective vulnerabilities that can be exploited for cancer treatment. Increasing demands for certain nutrients under genetic determination or environmental challenge enhance dependency of tumor cells on specific nutrient, which could be therapeutically developed through targeting such nutrient dependency. Various nutrients including several amino acids and glucose have been found to induce dependency in genetic alteration- or context-dependent manners. In this review, we discuss the extensively studied nutrient dependency and the biological mechanisms behind such vulnerabilities. Besides, existing applications and strategies to target nutrient dependency in different cancer types, accompanied with remaining challenges to further exploit these metabolic vulnerabilities to improve cancer therapies, are reviewed.
    Keywords:  cancer; dependency; metabolism; nutrient; therapy
  4. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 21. pii: 1155. [Epub ahead of print]23(3):
      Cancer has long been considered a genetic disease characterized by a myriad of mutations that drive cancer progression. Recent accumulating evidence indicates that the dysregulated metabolism in cancer cells is more than a hallmark of cancer but may be the underlying cause of the tumor. Most of the well-characterized oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes function to sustain the altered metabolic state in cancer. Here, we review evidence supporting the altered metabolic state in cancer including key alterations in glucose, glutamine, and fatty acid metabolism. Unlike genetic alterations that do not occur in all cancer types, metabolic alterations are more common among cancer subtypes and across cancers. Recognizing cancer as a metabolic disorder could unravel key diagnostic and treatments markers that can impact approaches used in cancer management.
    Keywords:  cancer; fatty acids; glucose; glutamine; metabolism
  5. Cells. 2022 Jan 26. pii: 426. [Epub ahead of print]11(3):
      Metabolic reprogramming is a feature of cancers for which recent research has been particularly active, providing numerous insights into the mechanisms involved. It occurs across the entire cancer process, from development to resistance to therapies. Established tumors exhibit dependencies for metabolic pathways, constituting vulnerabilities that can be targeted in the clinic. This knowledge is of particular importance for cancers that are refractory to any therapeutic approach, such as Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC). One of the metabolic pathways dysregulated in PDAC is autophagy, a survival process that feeds the tumor with recycled intracellular components, through both cell-autonomous (in tumor cells) and nonautonomous (from the local and distant environment) mechanisms. Autophagy is elevated in established PDAC tumors, contributing to aberrant proliferation and growth even in a nutrient-poor context. Critical elements link autophagy to PDAC including genetic alterations, mitochondrial metabolism, the tumor microenvironment (TME), and the immune system. Moreover, high autophagic activity in PDAC is markedly related to resistance to current therapies. In this context, combining autophagy inhibition with standard chemotherapy, and/or drugs targeting other vulnerabilities such as metabolic pathways or the immune response, is an ongoing clinical strategy for which there is still much to do through translational and multidisciplinary research.
    Keywords:  autophagy; cancer metabolism; mitochondrial metabolism; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; therapeutic resistance
  6. FEBS Lett. 2022 Feb 14.
      Nutrient import by APC-type transporters is predicted to have a high energy demand because it depends on the plasma membrane proton gradient established by the ATP-driven proton pump Pma1. We show that Pma1 is indeed a major energy consumer and its activity is tightly linked to the cellular ATP levels. The low Pma1 activity caused by acute loss of respiration resulted in a dramatic drop in cytoplasmic pH, which triggered the downregulation of the major proton importers, the APC transporters. This regulatory system is likely the reason for the observed rapid endocytosis of APC transporters during many environmental stresses. Furthermore, we show the importance of respiration in providing ATP to maintain a strong proton gradient for efficient nutrient uptake.
  7. Autophagy. 2022 Feb 15. 1-3
      Several cytotoxic agents used in cancer therapy cause DNA damage and replication stress. Understanding the metabolic determinants of the cell response to replication stress-inducing agents could have relevant implications for cancer treatment. In a recent study, we showed that cell survival during replication stress is influenced by the availability of amino acids, as well as by TORC1 and Gcn2-mediated amino acid sensing pathways. Amino acid starvation, or TORC1 inhibition, sensitizes cells to replication stress conditions, whereas Gcn2 ablation promotes cell survival by stimulating protein synthesis. The Vps34-Vps15-Vps30/Atg6/BECN1-Vps38/UVRAG phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PtdIns3P) complex at the endosomes sets the balance between survival and death signals during replication stress and amino acid starvation. The Vps34-Vps15-Vps30/Atg6/BECN1-Vps38/UVRAG axis promotes the degradation of amino acid transporters, thus sensitizing cells to amino acid starvation, while Vps34-Vps15-Vps30/Atg6/BECN1-Vps38/UVRAG inactivation promotes cell survival by enabling synthesis of stress response proteins mediating survival under replication stress conditions. Our study unravels an autophagy-independent mechanism through which Vps34-Vps30/Atg6/BECN1 promotes lethal events during replication stress.
    Keywords:  Amino acids; Atg6; DNA damage; Gcn2; TORC1; autophagy; endosomal trafficking; phosphatidylinositol-3 phosphate; replication stress