Hereditary ovarian cancer and two-compartment tumor metabolism: epithelial loss of BRCA1 induces hydrogen peroxide production, driving oxidative stress and NFκB activation in the tumor stroma.

Research paper by Ubaldo E UE Martinez-Outschoorn, Renee M RM Balliet, Zhao Z Lin, Diana D Whitaker-Menezes, Anthony A Howell, Federica F Sotgia, Michael P MP Lisanti

Indexed on: 11 Oct '12Published on: 11 Oct '12Published in: Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)


Mutations in the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene are commonly found in hereditary ovarian cancers. Here, we used a co-culture approach to study the metabolic effects of BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells on adjacent tumor-associated stromal fibroblasts. Our results directly show that BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells produce large amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which can be abolished either by administration of simple antioxidants (N-acetyl-cysteine; NAC) or by replacement of the BRCA1 gene. Thus, the BRCA1 gene normally suppresses tumor growth by functioning as an antioxidant. Importantly, hydrogen peroxide produced by BRCA1-null ovarian cancer cells induces oxidative stress and catabolic processes in adjacent stromal fibroblasts, such as autophagy, mitophagy and glycolysis, via stromal NFκB activation. Catabolism in stromal fibroblasts was also accompanied by the upregulation of MCT4 and a loss of Cav-1 expression, which are established markers of a lethal tumor microenvironment. In summary, loss of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene induces hydrogen peroxide production, which then leads to metabolic reprogramming of the tumor stroma, driving stromal-epithelial metabolic coupling. Our results suggest that new cancer prevention trials with antioxidants are clearly warranted in patients that harbor hereditary/familial BRCA1 mutations.

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