DOI: 10.7554/elife.87510.4 ISSN: 2050-084X

A positive feedback loop between ZEB2 and ACSL4 regulates lipid metabolism to promote breast cancer metastasis

Jiamin Lin, Pingping Zhang, Wei Liu, Guorong Liu, Juan Zhang, Min Yan, Yuyou Duan, Na Yang
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Lipid metabolism plays a critical role in cancer metastasis. However, the mechanisms through which metastatic genes regulate lipid metabolism remain unclear. Here, we describe a new oncogenic–metabolic feedback loop between the epithelial–mesenchymal transition transcription factor ZEB2 and the key lipid enzyme ACSL4 (long-chain acyl-CoA synthetase 4), resulting in enhanced cellular lipid storage and fatty acid oxidation (FAO) to drive breast cancer metastasis. Functionally, depletion of ZEB2 or ACSL4 significantly reduced lipid droplets (LDs) abundance and cell migration. ACSL4 overexpression rescued the invasive capabilities of the ZEB2 knockdown cells, suggesting that ACSL4 is crucial for ZEB2-mediated metastasis. Mechanistically, ZEB2-activated ACSL4 expression by directly binding to the ACSL4 promoter. ACSL4 binds to and stabilizes ZEB2 by reducing ZEB2 ubiquitination. Notably, ACSL4 not only promotes the intracellular lipogenesis and LDs accumulation but also enhances FAO and adenosine triphosphate production by upregulating the FAO rate-limiting enzyme CPT1A (carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 isoform A). Finally, we demonstrated that ACSL4 knockdown significantly reduced metastatic lung nodes in vivo. In conclusion, we reveal a novel positive regulatory loop between ZEB2 and ACSL4, which promotes LDs storage to meet the energy needs of breast cancer metastasis, and identify the ZEB2–ACSL4 signaling axis as an attractive therapeutic target for overcoming breast cancer metastasis.

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