Invasive phenotype induced by low extracellular pH requires mitochondria dependent metabolic flexibility

Simon C. Shin, Divya Thomas, Prakash Radhakrishnan, Michael A. Hollingsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Metabolic reprogramming is required for tumors to meet the bioenergetic and biosynthetic demands of malignant progression. Numerous studies have established a causal relationship between oncogenic drivers and altered metabolism, most prominently aerobic glycolysis, which supports rapid growth and affects the tumor microenvironment. Less is known about how the microenvironment modulates cancer metabolism. In the present study, we found that low extracellular pH, a common feature of solid tumors, provoked PDAC cells to decrease glycolysis and become resistant to glucose starvation. This was accompanied by increased dependency on mitochondrial metabolism, in which long-chain fatty acids became a primary fuel source. Consistent with previous reports, low pH enhanced tumor cell invasiveness. A novel finding was that limiting PDAC metabolic flexibility by either suppression of oxidative phosphorylation capacity or the pharmacological inhibition of fatty-acid oxidation prevented invasion induced by low extracellular pH. Altogether, our results suggest for the first time that targeting fatty-acid oxidation may be a viable adjunct strategy for preventing metastatic progression of pancreatic cancer mediated by the acidic tumor compartment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-168
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 23 2020


  • Acidic microenvironment
  • Aerobic glycolysis
  • EMT
  • Fatty-acid oxidation
  • Invasion
  • Pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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