Tumourigenic cells utilize aberrant metabolic process that supports the biosynthetic requirements for hyperproliferation, survival and prolonged maintenance characterised by glucose metabolism to lactate dehydrogenase independent of oxygen availability (Warburg effect). In addition, tumourigenic cells exert increased glycolytic- and glutaminolytic activity in order to provide increased quantities of adenosine triphosphate. The aim of this research project was to investigate the influence of glutamine deprivation on proliferation, morphology, oxidative stress, mitochondrial membrane potential, cell cycle progression, antioxidant defences, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage, energy status, cell survival signaling and cell death induction in tumourigenic- and non-tumourigenic breast cell lines.
In this study it was found that glutamine deprivation results in differential antiproliferative activity where the MCF-7 cell line was the most affected with decreased cell growth to 61% after 96 h of glutamine deprivation. Aberrant redox activity was most prominently observed in the MCF-7 cell line accompanied with biphasic mitochondrial membrane potential- and reactive oxygen species production. The MCF-7 cell line showed significant mitochondrial membrane depolarisation after 24 h and 96 h deprivation from glutamine (1.5- and 1.37 fold). Cell cycle progression analysis illustrated an increase in the amount of cells present in the S-phase in the MCF-7 cell line after 72 h of glutamine deprivation. The MDA-MB-231 cell line resulted in a significant increase in cells occupying the G2/M phase after 24 h of glutamine deprivation. Glutamine deprivation in the BT-20 cell line resulted in a significant increase in cells occupying G1 phase after 72 h of glutamine deprivation. The MCF-7 cell line demonstrated the least amount of viable cells when analysing apoptosis induction, when compared to the MDA-MB-231-, MCF-10A- and BT-20 cell lines after glutamine deprivation suggesting that the MCF-7 cell line is the most affected cell line. Analysis of antioxidant mechanism via superoxide dismutase (SOD) inhibition illustrated increased SOD activity in the MCF-7 cell line (9.1%) after 72 h of glutamine deprivation. Evaluation of catalase protein concentration indicated that the MCF-7 catalase expression increased to 1.28 fold after 24 h of glutamine deprivation when compared to cell propagated in complete growth medium. DNA damage was demonstrated by visualising the presence of fluorescent 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine and showed that the MCF-7 cell line presented with significant 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine staining. Survival signaling was also evaluated through visualising extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling which demonstrated increased ERK activation in the non-tumourigenic MCF-10A cell line and decreased PI3K activation.
This study provides evidence that there are differential- and time-dependent responses in breast tumourigenic cells versus non-tumourigenic cells, to glutamine deprivation thus unraveling the crosstalk between glutamine deprivation, oxidative stress and cell death and different cell types will enable us to better understand the basics of tumour cell metabolism and thus develop therapeutics that provide promising pre-sensitization potential for chemotherapeutic agents.