TRAP1 enhances Warburg metabolism through modulation of PFK1 expression/activity and favors resistance to EGFR inhibitors in human colorectal carcinomas

Francesca Maddalena, Valentina Condelli, Danilo Swann Matassa, Consiglia Pacelli, Rosella Scrima, Giacomo Lettini, Valeria Li Bergolis, Michele Pietrafesa, Fabiana Crispo, Annamaria Piscazzi, Giovanni Storto, Nazzareno Capitanio, Franca Esposito, Matteo Landriscina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metabolic rewiring is a mechanism of adaptation to unfavorable environmental conditions and tumor progression. TRAP1 is an HSP90 molecular chaperone upregulated in human colorectal carcinomas (CRCs) and responsible for downregulation of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and adaptation to metabolic stress. The mechanism by which TRAP1 regulates glycolytic metabolism and the relevance of this regulation in resistance to EGFR inhibitors were investigated in patient-derived CRC spheres, human CRC cells, samples, and patients. A linear correlation was observed between TRAP1 levels and 18F-fluoro-2-deoxy-glucose (18F-FDG) uptake upon PET scan or GLUT1 expression in human CRCs. Consistently, TRAP1 enhances GLUT1 expression, glucose uptake, and lactate production and downregulates OXPHOS in CRC patient-derived spheroids and cell lines. Mechanistically, TRAP1 maximizes lactate production to balance low OXPHOS through the regulation of the glycolytic enzyme phosphofructokinase-1 (PFK1); this depends on the interaction between TRAP1 and PFK1, which favors PFK1 glycolytic activity and prevents its ubiquitination/degradation. By contrast, TRAP1/PFK1 interaction is lost in conditions of enhanced OXPHOS, which results in loss of TRAP1 regulation of PFK1 activity and lactate production. Notably, TRAP1 regulation of glycolysis is involved in resistance of RAS-wild-type CRCs to EGFR monoclonals. Indeed, either TRAP1 upregulation or high glycolytic metabolism impairs cetuximab activity in vitro, whereas TRAP1 targeting and/or inhibition of glycolytic pathway enhances cell response to cetuximab. Finally, a linear correlation between 18F-FDG PET uptake and poor response to cetuximab in first-line therapy in human metastatic CRCs was observed. These results suggest that TRAP1 is a key determinant of CRC metabolic rewiring and favors resistance to EGFR inhibitors through regulation of glycolytic metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3030-3047
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Oncology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • cetuximab
  • glycolysis
  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • phosphofructokinase 1
  • TRAP1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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