Amino acid restriction has recently emerged as a compelling strategy to inhibit tumor growth. Recent work suggests that amino acids can regulate cellular signaling in addition to their role as biosynthetic substrates. Using lymphoid cancer cells as a model, we found that asparagine depletion acutely reduces the expression of c-MYC protein without changing its mRNA expression. Furthermore, asparagine depletion inhibits the translation of MYC mRNA without altering the rate of MYC protein degradation. Of interest, the inhibitory effect on MYC mRNA translation during asparagine depletion is not due to the activation of the general controlled nonderepressible 2 (GCN2) pathway and is not a consequence of the inhibition of global protein synthesis. In addition, both the 5’ and 3’ untranslated regions (UTRs) of MYC mRNA are not required for this inhibitory effect. Finally, using a MYC-driven mouse B cell lymphoma model, we found that shRNA inhibition of asparagine synthetase (ASNS) or pharmacological inhibition of asparagine production can significantly reduce the MYC protein expression and tumor growth when environmental asparagine becomes limiting. Since MYC is a critical oncogene, our results uncover a molecular connection between MYC mRNA translation and asparagine bioavailability and shed light on a potential to target MYC oncogene post-transcriptionally through asparagine restriction.
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We thank the IUSCC Flow Cytometry Core for the cell sorting, the In Vivo Therapeutic Core for the intravenous lymphoma transplantation, and the Histology Service Core for tissue embedding and sectioning.
This work was supported by NIH/NCI CA244625, the American Society of Hematologyand the Riley Children Foundation. RCW is supported by NIH/NIGMS GM136331 and isa member of the advisory board of HiberCell, Inc.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Srivastava, S., Jiang, J., Misra, J. et al. Asparagine bioavailability regulates the translation of MYC oncogene. Oncogene 41, 4855–4865 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41388-022-02474-9