Loss of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase function increases oxidative stress and glutaminolysis in metastasizing melanoma cells

Arin B. Aurora, Vishal Khivansara, Ashley Leach, Jennifer G. Gill, Misty Martin-Sandoval, Chendong Yang, Stacy Y. Kasitinon, Divya Bezwada, Alpaslan Tasdogan, Wen Gu, Thomas P. Mathews, Zhiyu Zhao, Ralph J. DeBerardinis, Sean J. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The pentose phosphate pathway is a major source of NADPH for oxidative stress resistance in cancer cells but there is limited insight into its role in metastasis, when some cancer cells experience high levels of oxidative stress. To address this, we mutated the substrate binding site of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), which catalyzes the first step of the pentose phosphate pathway, in patient-derived melanomas. G6PD mutant melanomas had significantly decreased G6PD enzymatic activity and depletion of intermediates in the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway. Reduced G6PD function had little effect on the formation of primary subcutaneous tumors, but when these tumors spontaneously metastasized, the frequency of circulating melanoma cells in the blood and metastatic disease burden were significantly reduced. G6PD mutant melanomas exhibited increased levels of reactive oxygen species, decreased NADPH levels, and depleted glutathione as compared to control melanomas. G6PD mutant melanomas compensated for this increase in oxidative stress by increasing malic enzyme activity and glutamine consumption. This generated a new metabolic vulnerability as G6PD mutant melanomas were more dependent upon glutaminase than control melanomas, both for oxidative stress management and anaplerosis. The oxidative pentose phosphate pathway, malic enzyme, and glutaminolysis thus confer layered protection against oxidative stress during metastasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2120617119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 8 2022


  • Glutaminolysis
  • Melanoma
  • Metastasis
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pentose phosphate pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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