Estradiol stimulates glucose metabolism via 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase (PFKFB3) [Metabolism]

February 10th, 2014 by Imbert-Fernandez, Y., Clem, B. F., O'Neal, J., Kerr, D. A., Spaulding, R., Lanceta, L., Clem, A. L., Telang, S., Chesney, J.

Estradiol (E2) administered to estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer patients stimulates glucose uptake by tumors. Importantly, this E2-induced metabolic flare is predictive of the clinical effectiveness of anti-estrogens and, as a result, downstream metabolic regulators of E2 are expected to have utility as targets for the development of anti-breast cancer agents. The family of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatases (PFKFB1-4) control glycolytic flux via their product, fructose-2,6-bisphosphate (F26BP), which activates 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase (PFK-1). We postulated that E2 might promote PFKFB3 expression, resulting in increased F26BP and glucose uptake. We demonstrate that PFKFB3 expression is highest in stage III lymph node metastases relative to normal breast tissues and that exposure of human MCF-7 breast cancer cells to E2 causes a rapid increase in 14C-glucose uptake that is coincident with an induction of PFKFB3 mRNA (via ER binding to its promoter), protein expression and the intracellular concentration of its product, F26BP. Importantly, selective inhibition of PFKFB3 expression and activity using siRNA or a PFKFB3 inhibitor markedly reduces the E2-mediated increase in F26BP and 14C-glucose uptake. Furthermore, co-treatment of MCF-7 cells with the PFKFB3 inhibitor and the anti-estrogen, ICI 182,780, synergistically induces apoptotic cell death. These findings demonstrate for the first time that the estrogen receptor directly promotes PFKFB3 mRNA transcription which, in turn, is required for the glucose metabolism and survival of breast cancer cells. Importantly, these results provide essential pre-clinical information that may allow for the ultimate design of combinatorial trials of PFKFB3 antagonists with anti-estrogen therapies in ER+ stage IV breast cancer patients.