Protein Kinase A Activation Promotes Cancer Cell Resistance to Glucose Starvation and Anoikis

Roberta Palorini, Giuseppina Votta, Yuri Pirola, Humberto De Vitto, Sara De Palma, Cristina Airoldi, Michele Vasso, Francesca Ricciardiello, Pietro Paolo Lombardi, Claudia Cirulli, Raffaella Rizzi, Francesco Nicotra, Karsten Hiller, Cecilia Gelfi, Lilia Alberghina, Ferdinando Chiaradonna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Cancer cells often rely on glycolysis to obtain energy and support anabolic growth. Several studies showed that glycolytic cells are susceptible to cell death when subjected to low glucose availability or to lack of glucose. However, some cancer cells, including glycolytic ones, can efficiently acquire higher tolerance to glucose depletion, leading to their survival and aggressiveness. Although increased resistance to glucose starvation has been shown to be a consequence of signaling pathways and compensatory metabolic routes activation, the full repertoire of the underlying molecular alterations remain elusive. Using omics and computational analyses, we found that cyclic adenosine monophosphate-Protein Kinase A (cAMP-PKA) axis activation is fundamental for cancer cell resistance to glucose starvation and anoikis. Notably, here we show that such a PKA-dependent survival is mediated by parallel activation of autophagy and glutamine utilization that in concert concur to attenuate the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and to sustain cell anabolism. Indeed, the inhibition of PKA-mediated autophagy or glutamine metabolism increased the level of cell death, suggesting that the induction of autophagy and metabolic rewiring by PKA is important for cancer cellular survival under glucose starvation. Importantly, both processes actively participate to cancer cell survival mediated by suspension-activated PKA as well. In addition we identify also a PKA/Src mechanism capable to protect cancer cells from anoikis. Our results reveal for the first time the role of the versatile PKA in cancer cells survival under chronic glucose starvation and anoikis and may be a novel potential target for cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1005931
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Palorini et al.


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