Distinct pattern of one-carbon metabolism, a nutrient-sensitive pathway, in invasive breast cancer: A metabolomic study

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Altered cell metabolism is a hallmark of cancer and critical for its development. Particularly, activation of one-carbon metabolism in tumor cells can sustain oncogenesis while contributing to epigenetic changes and metabolic adaptation during tumor progression. We assessed whether increased one-carbon metabolism activity is a metabolic feature of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). Differences in the metabolic profile between biopsies from IDC (n = 47) and its adjacent tissue (n = 43) and between biopsies from different breast cancer subtypes were assessed by gas spectrometry in targeted (Biocrates Life Science®) and untargeted approaches, respectively. The metabolomics data were statistically treated using MetaboAnalyst 4.0, SIMCA P+ (version 12.01), Statistica 10 software and t test with p < 0.05. The Cancer Genome Atlas breast cancer dataset was also assessed to validate the metabolomic profile of IDC. Our targeted metabolomics analysis showed distinct metabolomics profiles between IDC and adjacent tissue, where IDC displayed a comparative enrichment of metabolites involved in one-carbon metabolism (serine, glycine, threonine, and methionine) and a predicted increase in the activity of pathways that receive and donate carbon units (i.e., folate, methionine, and homocysteine). In addition, the targeted and untargeted metabolomics analyses showed similar metabolomics profiles between breast cancer subtypes. The gene set enrichment analysis identified different transcription-related functions between IDC and non-tumor tissues that involved one-carbon metabolism. Our data suggest that one-carbon metabolism may be a central pathway in IDC and even in general breast tumors, representing a potential target for its treatment and prevention.




Santos, J. R., Waitzberg, D. L., da Silva, I. D. C. G., Tortelli, T. C., Barros, L. R. C., Canuto, G. A. B., … Ravacci, G. (2020). Distinct pattern of one-carbon metabolism, a nutrient-sensitive pathway, in invasive breast cancer: A metabolomic study. Oncotarget, 11(18), 1637–1652. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27575

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