A GPX4-dependent cancer cell state underlies the clear-cell morphology and confers sensitivity to ferroptosis.

Scheme summarizing the molecular network driving the intrinsic GPX4 dependency and ferroptosis susceptibility in clear-cell carcinomas

Zou et al. (2019) Nat Commun. CC BY 4.0

Zou Y, Palte MJ, Deik AA, Li H, Eaton JK, Wang W, Tseng YY, Deasy R, Kost-Alimova M, Dančík V, Leshchiner ES, Viswanathan VS, Signoretti S, Choueiri TK, Boehm JS, Wagner BK, Doench JG, Clish CB, Clemons PA, Schreiber SL.

Nature Communications

April 08, 2019

Clear-cell carcinomas (CCCs) are a histological group of highly aggressive malignancies commonly originating in the kidney and ovary. CCCs are distinguished by aberrant lipid and glycogen accumulation and are refractory to a broad range of anti-cancer therapies. Here we identify an intrinsic vulnerability to ferroptosis associated with the unique metabolic state in CCCs. This vulnerability transcends lineage and genetic landscape, and can be exploited by inhibiting glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) with small-molecules. Using CRISPR screening and lipidomic profiling, we identify the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway as a driver of this vulnerability. In renal CCCs, HIF-2α selectively enriches polyunsaturated lipids, the rate-limiting substrates for lipid peroxidation, by activating the expression of hypoxia-inducible, lipid droplet-associated protein (HILPDA). Our study suggests targeting GPX4 as a therapeutic opportunity in CCCs, and highlights that therapeutic approaches can be identified on the basis of cell states manifested by morphological and metabolic features in hard-to-treat cancers.

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Last updated: April 16, 2019