Cancer cell sensitivity to arginine deprivation in vitro is not determined by endogenous levels of arginine metabolic enzymes




Single amino acid Arg (arginine) deprivation is currently considered as a therapeutic approach to treat certain types of tumours; the molecular mechanisms that underlie tumour cell sensitivity or resistance to Arg restriction are still little understood. Here, we address the question of whether endogenous levels of key Arg metabolic enzymes [catabolic: arginases, ARG1 (arginase type 1) and ARG2 (arginase type 2), and anabolic: OTC (ornithine transcarbamylase) and ASS (argininosuccinate synthetase)] affect cellular responses to arginine deprivation in vitro. Human epithelial cancer cells of different organs of origin exhibiting variable sensitivity to Arg deprivation provided the experimental models. Neither the basal expression status of the analysed enzymes, nor their changes upon arginine withdrawal correlated with cancer cell sensitivity to arginine deprivation. However, the ability to utilize exogenous Arg precursors (ornithine and citrulline) for growth in Arg-deficient medium strongly correlated with expression of the corresponding enzymes, OTC and ASS. We also observed that OTC expression was below the level of detection in all the types of tumour cells analysed, suggesting that in vitro, at least for them, Arg is an essential amino acid.