Benign albeit glycolytic: MCT4 expression and lactate release in giant cell tumour of bone

Sofia Avnet, Silvia Lemma, Costantino Errani, Luigi Falzetti, Emanuele Panza, Marta Columbaro, Cristina Nanni, Nicola Baldini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Giant cell tumour of bone (GCTB) is a histologically benign, locally aggressive skeletal lesion with an unpredictable propensity to relapse after surgery and a rare metastatic potential. The microscopic picture of GCTB shows different cell types, including multinucleated giant cells, mononuclear cells of the macrophage-monocyte lineage, and spindle cells. The histogenesis of GCTB is still debated, and morphologic, radiographic or molecular features are not predictive of the clinical course. Characterization of the unexplored cell metabolism of GCTB offers significant clues for the understanding of this elusive pathologic entity. In this study we aimed to characterize GCTB energetic metabolism, with a particular focus on lactate release and the expression of monocarboxylate transporters, to lie down a novel path for understanding the pathophysiology of this tumour. We measured the expression of glycolytic markers (GAPDH, PKM2, MCT4, GLUT1, HK1, LDHA, lactate release) in 25 tissue samples of GCTB by immunostaining and by mRNA and ELISA analyses. We also evaluated MCT1 and MCT4 expression and oxidative markers (JC1 staining and Bec index) in tumour-derived spindle cell cultures and CD14+ monocytic cells. Finally, we quantified the intratumoural and circulating levels of lactate in a series of 17 subjects with GCTB. In sharp contrast to the benign histological features of GCTB, we found a high expression of glycolytic markers, with particular reference to MCT4. Unexpectedly, this was mainly confined to the giant cell, not proliferating cell component. Accordingly, GCTB patients showed higher levels of blood lactate as compared to healthy subjects. In conclusion, taken together, our data indicate that GCTB is characterized by a highly glycolytic metabolism of its giant cell component, opening new perspectives on the pathogenesis, the natural history, and the treatment of this lesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Early online dateFeb 26 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Giant cell tumour of bone
  • Glycolysis
  • Lactate
  • Monocarboxylated transporter 4
  • Multinucleated cells


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