Increased glucose metabolism is considered as one of the most important metabolic alterations adapted by cancer cells in order to generate energy as well as high levels of glycolytic intermediates to support rapid proliferation. PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase (PHLPP) belongs to a novel family of Ser/Thr protein phosphatases that function as tumor suppressors in various types of human cancer. Here we determined the role of PHLPP in regulating glucose metabolism in colon cancer cells. Knockdown of PHLPP increased the rate of glucose consumption and lactate production, whereas overexpression of PHLPP had the opposite effect. Bioenergetic analysis using Seahorse Extracelluar Flux Analyzer revealed that silencing PHLPP expression induced a glycolytic shift in colon cancer cells. Mechanistically, we found that PHLPP formed a complex with Akt and hexokinase 2 (HK2) in the mitochondrial fraction of colon cancer cells and knockdown of PHLPP enhanced Akt-mediated phosphorylation and mitochondrial localization of HK2. Depletion of HK2 expression or treating cells with Akt and HK2 inhibitors reversed PHLPP loss-induced increase in glycolysis. Furthermore, PHLPP knockdown cells became addicted to glucose as a major energy source in that glucose starvation significantly decreased cancer cell survival. As HK2 is the key enzyme that determines the direction and magnitude of glucose flux, our study identified PHLPP as a novel regulator of glucose metabolism by controlling HK2 activity in colon cancer cells.

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Published in Cell Death Discovery, v. 3, article no. 16103, p. 1-12.

© The Author(s) 2017

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This work was supported by R01CA133429 (TG) and P20GM103527. The studies were conducted with support provided by the Redox Metabolism and Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource Facilities of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center (P30CA177558).

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Supplemental Information accompanies the paper on the Cell Death and Discovery website (http://www.nature.com/cddiscovery).

cddiscovery2016103-s1.doc (719 kB)
Supplementary Information