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This research was originally published in Journal of Biological Chemistry. Agarwal, E.; Altman, B.J.; Seo, J.H.; Ghosh, J.C.; Kossenkov, A.V.; Tang, H.-Y.; Krishn, S.R.; Languino, L.R.; Gabrilovich, D.I.; Speicher, D.W.; Dang, C.V.; & Altieri, D.C.. Myc-mediated transcriptional regulation of the mitochondrial chaperone TRAP1 controls primary and metastatic tumor growth. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2019; 294(27):10407-10414. © the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


The role of mitochondria in cancer continues to be debated, and whether exploitation of mitochondrial functions is a general hallmark of malignancy or a tumor- or context-specific response is still unknown. Using a variety of cancer cell lines and several technical approaches, including siRNA-mediated gene silencing, ChIP assays, global metabolomics and focused metabolite analyses, bioenergetics, and cell viability assays, we show that two oncogenic Myc proteins, c-Myc and N-Myc, transcriptionally control the expression of the mitochondrial chaperone TNFR-associated protein- 1 (TRAP1) in cancer. In turn, this Myc-mediated regulation preserved the folding and function of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complex II and IV subunits, dampened reactive oxygen species production, and enabled oxidative bioenergetics in tumor cells. Of note, we found that genetic or pharmacological targeting of this pathway shuts off tumor cell motility and invasion, kills Myc-expressing cells in a TRAP1-dependent manner, and suppresses primary and metastatic tumor growth in vivo. We conclude that exploitation of mitochondrial functions is a general trait of tumorigenesis and that this reliance of cancer cells on mitochondrialOXPHOSpathways could offer an actionable therapeutic target in the clinic.

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