Posttranscriptional upregulation of IDH1 by HuR establishes a powerful survival phenotype in pancreatic cancer cells

Mahsa Zarei, Shruti Lal, Seth J. Parker, Avinoam Nevler, Ali Vaziri-Gohar, Katerina Dukleska, Nicole C. Mambelli-Lisboa, Cynthia Moffat, Fernando F. Blanco, Saswati N. Chand, Masaya Jimbo, Joseph A. Cozzitorto, Wei Jiang, Charles J. Yeo, Eric R. Londin, Erin L. Seifert, Christian M. Metallo, Jonathan R. Brody, Jordan M. Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Cancer aggressiveness may result from the selective pressure of a harsh nutrient-deprived microenvironment. Here we illustrate how such conditions promote chemotherapy resistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Glucose or glutamine withdrawal resulted in a 5- to 10-fold protective effect with chemotherapy treatment. PDAC xenografts were less sensitive to gemcitabine in hypoglycemic mice compared with hyperglycemic mice. Consistent with this observation, patients receiving adjuvant gemcitabine (n = 107) with elevated serum glucose levels (HgbA1C > 6.5%) exhibited improved survival. We identified enhanced antioxidant defense as a driver of chemoresistance in this setting. ROS levels were doubled in vitro by either nutrient withdrawal or gemcitabine treatment, but depriving PDAC cells of nutrients before gemcitabine treatment attenuated this effect. Mechanistic investigations based on RNAi or CRISPR approaches implicated the RNA binding protein HuR in preserving survival under nutrient withdrawal, with or without gemcitabine. Notably, RNA deep sequencing and functional analyses in HuR-deficient PDAC cell lines identified isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) as the sole antioxidant enzyme under HuR regulation. HuR-deficient PDAC cells lacked the ability to engraft successfully in immunocompromised mice, but IDH1 overexpression in these cells was sufficient to fully restore chemoresistance under low nutrient conditions. Overall, our findings highlight the HuR–IDH1 regulatory axis as a critical, actionable therapeutic target in pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4460-4471
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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