Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs) belong to a family of transcription factors that regulate the expression of genes required for the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol. Three SREBP isoforms, SREBP1a, SREBP1c, and SREBP2, have been identified in mammalian cells. SREBP1a and SREBP1c are derived from a single gene through the use of alternative transcription start sites. Here we investigated the role of SREBP-mediated lipogenesis in regulating tumor growth and initiation in colon cancer. Knockdown of either SREBP1 or SREBP2 decreased levels of fatty acids as a result of decreased expression of SREBP target genes required for lipid biosynthesis in colon cancer cells. Bioenergetic analysis revealed that silencing SREBP1 or SREBP2 expression reduced the mitochondrial respiration, glycolysis, as well as fatty acid oxidation indicating an alteration in cellular metabolism. Consequently, the rate of cell proliferation and the ability of cancer cells to form tumor spheroids in suspension culture were significantly decreased. Similar results were obtained in colon cancer cells in which the proteolytic activation of SREBP was blocked. Importantly, knockdown of either SREBP1 or SREBP2 inhibited xenograft tumor growth in vivo and decreased the expression of genes associated with cancer stem cells. Taken together, our findings establish the molecular basis of SREBP-dependent metabolic regulation and provide a rationale for targeting lipid biosynthesis as a promising approach in colon cancer treatment.

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Published in Cell Death and Disease, v. 9, article 265, p. 1-14.

© The Author(s) 2018

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This work was supported by R01CA133429 (T.G.) and R01CA208343 (B.M.E. and T.G.). The studies were conducted with support provided by the Redox Metabolism, Biospecimen Procurement and Translational Pathology, and Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource Facilities of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center (P30CA177558).

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41419-018-0330-6.

41419_2018_330_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26646 kB)
Supplementary Information: Supplemental Figures S1-S4.