Intracellular BAPTA directly inhibits PFKFB3, thereby impeding mTORC1-driven Mcl-1 translation and killing MCL-1-addicted cancer cells

Sneyers, Flore; Kerkhofs, Martijn; Speelman-Rooms, Femke; Welkenhuyzen, Kirsten; La Rovere, Rita; Shemy, Ahmed; Voet, Arnout; Eelen, Guy; Dewerchin, Mieke; Tait, Stephen W. G.; Ghesquière, Bart; Bootman, Martin D. and Bultynck, Geert (2023). Intracellular BAPTA directly inhibits PFKFB3, thereby impeding mTORC1-driven Mcl-1 translation and killing MCL-1-addicted cancer cells. Cell Death & Disease, 14, article no. 600.



Intracellular Ca2+ signals control several physiological and pathophysiological processes. The main tool to chelate intracellular Ca2+is intracellular BAPTA (BAPTAi), usually introduced into cells as a membrane-permeant acetoxymethyl ester (BAPTA-AM). Previously, we demonstrated that BAPTA i enhanced apoptosis induced by venetoclax, a BCL-2 antagonist, in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma(DLBCL). This finding implied a novel interplay between intracellular Ca2+ signaling and anti-apoptotic BCL-2 function. Hence, we set out to identify the underlying mechanisms by which BAPTA i enhances cell death in B-cell cancers. In this study, we discovered that BAPTA i alone induced apoptosis in hematological cancer cell lines that were highly sensitive to S63845, an MCL-1 antagonist. BAPTA i provoked a rapid decline in MCL-1-protein levels by inhibiting mTORC1-driven Mcl-1 translation. These events were not a consequence of cell death, as BAX/BAK-deficient cancer cells exhibited similar downregulation of mTORC1 activity and MCL-1-protein levels. Next, we investigated how BAPTA i diminished mTORC1 activity and identified its ability to impair glycolysis by directly inhibiting 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase 3 (PFKFB3) activity, a previously unknown effect of BAPTA i. Notably, these effects were also induced by a BAPTA i analog with low affinity for Ca2+. Consequently, our findings uncover PFKFB3 inhibition as an Ca2+-independent mechanism through which BAPTA i impairs cellular metabolism and ultimately compromises the survival of MCL-1-dependent cancer cells. These findings hold two important implications. Firstly, the direct inhibition of PFKFB3 emerges as a key regulator of mTORC1 activity and a promising target in MCL-1-dependent cancers. Secondly, cellular effects caused by BAPTA i are not necessarily related to Ca2+ signaling. Our data support the need for a reassessment of the role of Ca2+ in cellular processes when findings were based on the use of BAPTA i.

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