Metabolic profiling of attached and detached metformin and 2-deoxy-D-glucose treated breast cancer cells reveals adaptive changes in metabolome of detached cells

Publication from Health
Bioanalytik und Metabolomics

Jernej Repas, Elmar Zügner, Boris Gole, Maruša Bizjak, Uroš Potočnik, Christoph Magnes, Mojca Pavlin

Scientific Reports 11, Article number: 21354 (2021), 11/2021


Anchorage-independent growth of cancer cells in vitro is correlated to metastasis formation in vivo. Metformin use is associated with decreased breast cancer incidence and currently evaluated in cancer clinical trials. The combined treatment with metformin and 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2DG) in vitro induces detachment of viable MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells that retain their proliferation capacity. This might be important for cell detachment from primary tumors, but the metabolic changes involved are unknown. We performed LC/MS metabolic profiling on separated attached and detached MDA-MB-231 cells treated with metformin and/or 2DG. High 2DG and metformin plus 2DG altered the metabolic profile similarly to metformin, inferring that metabolic changes are necessary but not sufficient while the specific effects of 2DG are crucial for detachment. Detached cells had higher NADPH levels and lower fatty acids and glutamine levels compared to attached cells, supporting the role of AMPK activation and reductive carboxylation in supporting anchorage-independent survival. Surprisingly, the metabolic profile of detached cells was closer to untreated control cells than attached treated cells, suggesting detachment might help cells adapt to energy stress. Metformin treated cells had higher fatty and amino acid levels with lower purine nucleotide levels, which is relevant for understanding the anticancer mechanisms of metformin