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Understanding the impact of BRAF signaling inhibition in human melanoma on key disease mechanisms is important for developing biomarkers of therapeutic response and combination strategies to improve long-term disease control. This work investigates the downstream metabolic consequences of BRAF inhibition with vemurafenib, the molecular and biochemical processes that underpin them, their significance for antineoplastic activity, and potential as noninvasive imaging response biomarkers. 1H NMR spectroscopy showed that vemurafenib decreases the glycolytic activity of BRAF-mutant (WM266.4 and SKMEL28) but not BRAFWT (CHL-1 and D04) human melanoma cells. In WM266.4 cells, this was associated with increased acetate, glycine, and myo-inositol levels and decreased fatty acyl signals, while the bioenergetic status was maintained. 13C NMR metabolic flux analysis of treated WM266.4 cells revealed inhibition of de novo lactate synthesis and glucose utilization, associated with increased oxidative and anaplerotic pyruvate carboxylase mitochondrial metabolism and decreased lipid synthesis. This metabolic shift was associated with depletion of hexokinase 2, acyl-CoA dehydrogenase 9, 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase, and monocarboxylate transporters (MCT) 1 and 4 in BRAF-mutant but not BRAFWT cells and, interestingly, decreased BRAF-mutant cell dependency on glucose and glutamine for growth. Further, the reduction in MCT1 expression observed led to inhibition of hyperpolarized 13C-pyruvate-lactate exchange, a parameter that is translatable to in vivo imaging studies, in live WM266.4 cells. In conclusion, our data provide new insights into the molecular and metabolic consequences of BRAF inhibition in BRAF-driven human melanoma cells that may have potential for combinatorial therapeutic targeting as well as noninvasive imaging of response. Mol Cancer Ther; 15(12); 2987-99. ©2016 AACR.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cancer Ther

Publication Date





2987 - 2999


Antineoplastic Agents, Cell Line, Tumor, Energy Metabolism, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Glucose, Humans, Indoles, Lactates, Melanoma, Metabolomics, Mitochondria, Models, Biological, Mutation, Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf, Pyruvate Carboxylase, Pyruvic Acid, Sulfonamides, Vemurafenib