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Focusing on the Right Metabolite
A variety of human cancers, including acute leukemias and brain tumors, have mutations in the genes encoding isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 or 2 (IDH1, IDH2), which cause overproduction of a metabolite called 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG). Losman et al. (p. 1621, published online 7 February) show that the R- but not the S-enantiomer of 2HG can transform cells and that R-2HG mediates transformation at least in part through effects on protein modifying EglN prolyl hydroxylases. Importantly, the transforming activity of R-2HG was reversible, suggesting that therapeutic strategies focusing on inhibition of R-2HG production or inhibition of EglN prolyl hydroxylases merit further investigation.
Mutations in IDH1 and IDH2, the genes coding for isocitrate dehydrogenases 1 and 2, are common in several human cancers, including leukemias, and result in overproduction of the (R)-enantiomer of 2-hydroxyglutarate [(R)-2HG]. Elucidation of the role of IDH mutations and (R)-2HG in leukemogenesis has been hampered by a lack of appropriate cell-based models. Here, we show that a canonical IDH1 mutant, IDH1 R132H, promotes cytokine independence and blocks differentiation in hematopoietic cells. These effects can be recapitulated by (R)-2HG, but not (S)-2HG, despite the fact that (S)-2HG more potently inhibits enzymes, such as the 5′-methylcytosine hydroxylase TET2, that have previously been linked to the pathogenesis of IDH mutant tumors. We provide evidence that this paradox relates to the ability of (S)-2HG, but not (R)-2HG, to inhibit the EglN prolyl hydroxylases. Additionally, we show that transformation by (R)-2HG is reversible.