Alterations in redox and energy metabolism in Ras-transformed cells: Mechanisms and therapeutic implications

Yumin Hu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Increasing attention has been given to the connection between metabolism and cancer. Under aerobic conditions, normal cells predominantly use oxidative phosphorylation for ATP generation. In contrast, increase of glycolytic activity has been observed in various tumor cells, which is known as Warburg effect. Cancer cells, compared to normal cells, produce high levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and hence are constantly under oxidative stress. Increase of oxidative stress and glycolytic activity in cancer cells represent major biochemical alterations associated with malignant transformation. Despite prevalent upregulation of ROS production and glycolytic activity observed in various cancer cells, underlying mechanisms still remain to be defined. Oncogenic signals including Ras has been linked to regulation of energy metabolism and ROS production. Current study was initiated to investigate the mechanism by which Ras oncogenic signal regulates cellular metabolism and redox status. A doxycycline inducible gene expression system with oncogenic K-ras transfection was constructed to assess the role played by Ras activation in any given studied parameters. Data obtained here reveals that K-ras activation directly caused mitochondrial dysfunction and ROS generation, which appeared to be mechanistically associated with translocation of K-ras to mitochondria and the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore. K-ras induced mitochondrial dysfunction led to upregulation of glycolysis and constitutive activation of ROS-generating NAD(P)H Oxidase (NOX). Increased oxidative stress, upregulation of glycolytic activity, and constitutive activated NOX were also observed in the pancreatic K-ras transformed cancer cells compared to their normal counterparts. Compared to non-transformed cells, the pancreatic K-ras transformed cancer cells with activated NOX exhibited higher sensitivity to capsaicin, a natural compound that appeared to target NOX and cause preferential accumulation of oxidative stress in K-ras transformed cells. Taken together, these findings shed new light on the role played by Ras in the road to cancer in the context of oxidative stress and metabolic alteration. The mechanistic relationship between K-ras oncogenic signals and metabolic alteration in cancer will help to identify potential molecular targets such as NAD(P)H Oxidase and glycolytic pathway for therapeutic intervention of cancer development.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Hu, Yumin, "Alterations in redox and energy metabolism in Ras-transformed cells: Mechanisms and therapeutic implications" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3328245.