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Reversal of Warburg Effect and Reactivation of Oxidative Phosphorylation by Differential Inhibition of EGFR Signaling Pathways in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Reversal of Warburg Effect and Reactivation of Oxidative Phosphorylation by Differential Inhibition of EGFR Signaling Pathways in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Clinical Cancer Research 21(22): 5110-5120

One of the hallmarks of cancer cells is the excessive conversion of glucose to lactate under normoxic conditions, also known as the Warburg effect. Here, we tested whether the targeted inhibition of EGFR may revert this effect and reactivate mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Sensitive (HCC827) and resistant (H1975 and H1993) NSCLC cells were treated with a panel of EGFR or MET inhibitors, and then tested for changes of EGFR signaling, glycolytic cascade, and mitochondrial function. Silencing of key glycolytic enzymes was then performed with targeted siRNAs. Furthermore, tumor-bearing nude mice treated with EGFR inhibitors were evaluated with (18)F-FDG PET/CT and tumors were analyzed for glycolytic and mitochondrial proteins. Effective inhibition of EGFR signaling in NSCLC cells induced a dramatic reduction of hexokinase II (HKII) and phospho-pyruvate kinase M2 (p-PKM2, Tyr105) levels as well as an upregulation of mitochondrial complexes subunits (OXPHOS). Accordingly, a decreased lactate secretion and increased intracellular ATP levels were also observed in response to EGFR inhibitors. Downregulation of HKII and PKM2 by targeted siRNA transfection did not cause upregulation of OXPHOS but enhanced the effects of EGFR TKIs. Conversely, selective inhibition of AKT and ERK1/2 caused OXPHOS upregulation and glycolysis inhibition, respectively. Similar findings were obtained in tumors from animals treated with appropriate EGFR inhibitors. Our findings indicate that EGFR inhibitors may reactivate oxidative phosphorylation of cancer cells and provide a mechanistic clue for the rational combination of agents targeting EGFR-dependent proliferation and glucose metabolism in cancer therapy.

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Accession: 058767535

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PMID: 26216352

DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-15-0375

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