Cholesterol biogenesis is a PTEN-dependent actionable node for the treatment of endocrine therapy-refractory cancers

Kaysudu I., Gungul T. B., Atici S., Yilmaz S., Bayram E., GÜVEN G., ...More

Cancer Science, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/cas.15960
  • Journal Name: Cancer Science
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, BIOSIS, Chemical Abstracts Core, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: carcinogenesis, cholesterol biosynthesis, PI3K, PTEN-null, signal transduction
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


PTEN and PIK3CA mutations are the most prevalent PI3K pathway alterations in prostate, breast, colorectal, and endometrial cancers. p110β becomes the prominent PI3K isoform upon PTEN loss. In this study, we aimed to understand the molecular mechanisms of PI3K dependence in the absence of PTEN. Using online bioinformatical tools, we examined two publicly available microarray datasets with aberrant PI3K activation. We found that the rate-limiting enzyme of cholesterol biogenesis, SQLE, was significantly upregulated in p110β-hyperactivated or PTEN-deficient mouse prostate tumors. Concomitantly, the expression of cholesterol biosynthesis pathway enzymes was directly correlated with PI3K activation status in microarray datasets and diminished upon PTEN re-expression in PTEN-null prostate cancer cells. Particularly, PTEN re-expression decreased SQLE protein levels in PTEN-deficient prostate cancer cells. We performed targeted metabolomics and detected reduced levels of cholesteryl esters as well as free cholesterol upon PTEN re-expression. Notably, PTEN-null prostate and breast cancer cell lines were more sensitive to pharmacological intervention with the cholesterol pathway than PTEN-replete cancer cells. Since steroid hormones use sterols as structural precursors, we studied whether cholesterol biosynthesis may be a metabolic vulnerability that enhances antihormone therapy in PTEN-null castration-resistant prostate cancer cells. Coinhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis and the androgen receptor enhanced their sensitivity. Moreover, PTEN suppression in endocrine therapy-resistant luminal-A breast cancer cells leads to an increase in SQLE expression and a corresponding sensitization to the inhibition of cholesterol synthesis. According to our data, targeting cholesterol biosynthesis in combination with the hormone receptor signaling axis can potentially treat hormone-resistant prostate and breast cancers.