Increased anaerobic metabolism is a distinctive signature in a colorectal cancer cellular model of resistance to antiepidermal growth factor receptor antibody


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Correspondence: Professor Nicola Zambrano, CEINGE Biotecnologie Avanzate and Dipartimento di Medicina Molecolare e Biotecnologie Mediche, Via G. Salvatore 486, 80145 Napoli, Italy


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Cetuximab is a chimeric antibody approved for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer that selectively targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling. Treatment efficacy with this drug is often impaired by acquired resistance and poor information has been accumulated on the mechanisms underlying such a phenomenon. By taking advantage of a syngenic cellular system of sensitivity and acquired resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in the colorectal carcinoma GEO cell line, we profiled protein expression differences between Cetuximab-sensitive and -resistant cells. Combined 2D DIGE and MS analyses revealed a main proteomic signature resulting from selective deregulation of various metabolic enzymes, including glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, transketolase, lactate dehydrogenase B, and pyruvate dehydrogenase E1, which was also confirmed by Western blotting experiments. Lactate dehydrogenase B downregulation has been already related to an increased anaerobic utilization of glucose by tumor cells; accordingly, we verified that Cetuximab-resistant cells have a significantly higher production of lactate. Resistant cells also showed decreased nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) levels. Observed protein deregulations were not related to functional alterations of the hypoxia-inducible factor 1-associated pathways. Our data demonstrate that increased anaerobic metabolism is a prominent feature observed in the GEO syngenic model of acquired resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in colorectal cancer.