Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 exhibits a novel role in the activation of mutant KRAS, regulating cell growth in lung and colorectal tumour cells

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RAS signalling is involved in the control of several metabolic pathways including glycolysis, mitochondrial respiration and glutamine metabolism. Importantly, we have found here that loss of PDHK4, a key regulator of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, caused a profound cell growth inhibition in tumour cells harbouring KRAS mutations. Using isogenic cells and a panel of colorectal and lung cell lines we demonstrated that KRAS mutant cells showed a dependency on PDHK4 whereas KRAS wild-type cells were significantly resistant to PDHK4 knockdown. We have found that PDHK4 plays a role in the post-translational regulation of mutant KRAS activity. Depletion of PDHK4 causes disruption of KRAS cellular localization, a reduction in KRAS activity which, in turn, results in reduced MAPK signalling. Interestingly, PDHK4 and KRAS depletion resulted in a similar metabolic phenotype consisting of a reduction of glucose and fatty acid oxidation. Moreover, stable expression of PDHK4 increased localization of activated KRAS at the plasma membrane and induced tumour cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Taken together these data support a model where PDHK4 regulates KRAS signalling and its tumorigenic properties and suggest that inhibition of PDHK4 could represent a novel therapeutic strategy to target KRAS mutant colorectal and lung cancers.

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