Glucose restriction induces cell death in parental but not in homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2-depleted RKO colon cancer cells: Molecular mechanisms and implications for tumor therapy

A. Garufi, A. Ricci, D. Trisciuoglio, E. Iorio, G. Carpinelli, G. Pistritto, M. Cirone, G. D'Orazi

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Tumor cell tolerance to nutrient deprivation can be an important factor for tumor progression, and may depend on deregulation of both oncogenes and oncosuppressor proteins. Homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 (HIPK2) is an oncosuppressor that, following its activation by several cellular stress, induces cancer cell death via p53-dependent or-independent pathways. Here, we used genetically matched human RKO colon cancer cells harboring wt-HIPK2 (HIPK2+/+) or stable HIPK2 siRNA interference (siHIPK2) to investigate in vitro whether HIPK2 influenced cell death in glucose restriction. We found that glucose starvation induced cell death, mainly due to c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase activation, in HIPK2+/+ cells compared with siHIPK2 cells that did not die. 1 H-nuclear magnetic resonance quantitative metabolic analyses showed a marked glycolytic activation in siHIPK2 cells. However, treatment with glycolysis inhibitor 2-deoxy-D-glucose induced cell death only in HIPK2+/+ cells but not in siHIPK2 cells. Similarly, siGlut-1 interference did not re-establish siHIPK2 cell death under glucose restriction, whereas marked cell death was reached only after zinc supplementation, a condition known to reactivate misfolded p53 and inhibit the pseudohypoxic phenotype in this setting. Further siHIPK2 cell death was reached with zinc in combination with autophagy inhibitor. We propose that the metabolic changes acquired by cells after HIPK2 silencing may contribute to induce resistance to cell death in glucose restriction condition, and therefore be directly relevant for tumor progression. Moreover, elimination of such a tolerance might serve as a new strategy for cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere639
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013



  • Autophagy
  • Cell death
  • Glucose
  • HIPK2
  • Tumor
  • Zinc supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology
  • Cancer Research
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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