Tumor metastasis to lymph nodes requires YAP-dependent metabolic adaptation

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 644-649
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0173

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Fueling lymph node metastases

Metastatic cells can migrate from a primary tumor to distant organs through two routes: They can enter the bloodstream directly, or they can enter a lymph node adjacent to the primary tumor. Little is known about the biological mechanisms that allow tumor cells to survive and grow within lymph nodes. Studying mouse models, Lee et al. found that tumor cells adapt to the lymph node microenvironment by shifting their metabolism toward fatty acid oxidation. This occurs through activation of a signaling pathway driven by the yes-associated protein (YAP) transcription factor. Importantly, inhibition of fatty acid oxidation or YAP signaling suppressed lymph node metastasis in the mice.

Science, this issue p. 644


In cancer patients, metastasis of tumors to sentinel lymph nodes (LNs) predicts disease progression and often guides treatment decisions. The mechanisms underlying tumor LN metastasis are poorly understood. By using comparative transcriptomics and metabolomics analyses of primary and LN-metastatic tumors in mice, we found that LN metastasis requires that tumor cells undergo a metabolic shift toward fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Transcriptional coactivator yes-associated protein (YAP) is selectively activated in LN-metastatic tumors, leading to the up-regulation of genes in the FAO signaling pathway. Pharmacological inhibition of FAO or genetic ablation of YAP suppressed LN metastasis in mice. Several bioactive bile acids accumulated to high levels in the metastatic LNs, and these bile acids activated YAP in tumor cells, likely through the nuclear vitamin D receptor. Inhibition of FAO or YAP may merit exploration as a potential therapeutic strategy for mitigating tumor metastasis to LNs.

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