Increased expression of glutamine transporter SNAT2/SLC38A2 promotes glutamine dependence and oxidative stress resistance, and is associated with worse prognosis in triple-negative breast cancer
Morotti M., Zois CE., El-Ansari R., Craze ML., Rakha EA., Fan S-J., Valli A., Haider S., Goberdhan DCI., Green AR., Harris AL.
Abstract Background Glutamine (Gln) is an abundant nutrient used by cancer cells. Breast cancers cells and particularly triple-receptor negative breast cancer (TNBC) are reported to be dependent on Gln to produce the energy required for survival and proliferation. Despite intense research on the role of the intracellular Gln pathway, few reports have focussed on Gln transporters in breast cancer and TNBC. Methods The role and localisation of the Gln transporter SLC38A2/SNAT2 in response to Gln deprivation or pharmacological stresses was examined in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. Subsequently, the effect of SLC38A2 knockdown in Gln-sensitive cell lines was analysed. The prognostic value of SLC38A2 in a cohort of breast cancer was determined by immunohistochemistry. Results SLC38A2 was identified as a strongly expressed amino acid transporter in six breast cancer cell lines. We confirmed an autophagic route of degradation for SLC38A2. SLC38A2 knockdown decreased Gln consumption, inhibited cell growth, induced autophagy and led to ROS production in a subgroup of Gln-sensitive cell lines. High expression of SLC38A2 protein was associated with poor breast cancer specific survival in a large cohort of patients (p = 0.004), particularly in TNBC (p = 0.02). Conclusions These results position SLC38A2 as a selective target for inhibiting growth of Gln-dependent breast cancer cell lines.