Many processes are deregulated in melanoma cells and one of those is protein production. Although much is known about protein synthesis in cancer cells, effective ways of therapeutically targeting this process remain an understudied area of research. A process that is upregulated in melanoma compared with normal melanocytes is proline biosynthesis, which has been linked to both oncogene and tumor suppressor pathways, suggesting an important convergent point for therapeutic intervention. Therefore, an RNAi screen of a kinase library was undertaken, identifying aldehyde dehydrogenase 18 family, member A1 (ALDH18A1) as a critically important gene in regulating melanoma cell growth through proline biosynthesis. Inhibition of ALDH18A1, the gene encoding pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase (P5CS), significantly decreased cultured melanoma cell viability and tumor growth. Knockdown of P5CS using siRNA had no effect on apoptosis, autophagy, or the cell cycle but cell-doubling time increased dramatically suggesting that there was a general slowdown in cellular metabolism. Mechanistically, targeting ALDH18A1 activated the serine/threonine protein kinase GCN2 (general control nonderepressible 2) to inhibit protein synthesis, which could be reversed with proline supplementation. Thus, targeting ALDH18A1 in melanoma can be used to disrupt proline biosynthesis to limit cell metabolism thereby increasing the cellular doubling time mediated through the GCN2 pathway. Implications: This study demonstrates that melanoma cells are sensitive to disruption of proline synthesis and provides a proof-of-concept that the proline synthesis pathway can be therapeutically targeted in melanoma tumors for tumor inhibitory efficacy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research