Background In Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL), neoplastic cells orchestrate an inflammatory microenvironment leading to sterile inflammation, T-cell anergy, and immune deficiency. Our group showed that in HL patients the aminoacid degrading enzyme Arginase-1 is increased, associated with poor outcome, and leads to arginine (Arg) deprivation. However, how the reduction of Arg in the extracellular milieu of the tumor microenvironment can contribute to neoplastic cell fitness is largely unknown.

Aims To detect the adaptive response (via evaluation of global transcriptome and metabolome changes) in human HL cell lines exposed to Arg deprivation.

Methods To better understand the impact of extra-cellular Arg1 deprivation on the metabolome of human cHL cells, four human cHL cell lines (L428, L540, HDMYZ and KM-H2) were individually cultured with customized complete media or lacking or Arg (R0), supplemented with 10% dialyzed fetal bovine serum, in six independent experiments. After 48 hours of culture, the cells were collected for global metabolomic analysis, by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) platforms by Metabolon Inc and transcriptome profiling by Illumina platform. Following normalization to DNA concentration, log transformation, and imputation of missing values, if any, with the minimum observed value for each compound, Welch's two-sample t-test was used to identify biochemicals that differed significantly between experimental groups.

Results While Arg deprivation did not affect cell viability but delayed cell cycle due to arrest in G2 phase in all tested cell lines, the effect of Arg deficiency on the cellular metabolome depended largely on the cell type examined with L428 and KMH2 cells having significantly changed metabolomes. Pyruvate was significantly higher in the KMH2 cells deprived of Arg compared to controls. Conversely, lactate was significantly lower, with increased levels of long-chain saturated fatty acids and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Taken together the metabolomics changes suggested that specific-amino acid deficiency can lead to an increase in free fatty acids synthases to preserve cytoplasmatic and mitochondrial membrane dynamics. Consistent with a metabolic rewiring to maintain mitochondrial integrity (the pyruvate is an important intermediary in the conversion of carbohydrates into fatty acids), the adaptive response was associated to increased oxidative stress, as suggested by of reduced glutathione in KMH2 cells, depletion of gamma-glutamylcysteine, increased cystine, the oxidative product of cysteine, and methionine sulfoxide (an oxidation product of methionine).

Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) showed deep transcriptome rearrangements in KMH2 and HDMYZ cell lines, involving upregulation of genes required for the unfolded protein response (UPR, including XBP1, EIF2S1, EIF4A2, EIF4A3, ATF3, ATF4, DDIT4, EDEM1, GADD45B, SQSTM1, HMOX), NF-kB response to TNF (including RAF1, TNF, LIF, NKBIA, SGK1, BIRC3, ICAM1, BCL6, IL6, RELA, CDKN1A), p53 pathway and networks (including CDKN2B, STOM, TRAF4, RRAD, SESN1, FOXO3, SERPINB5, JAG2) and proteosome degradation (HSPA4, PSMD11, PSMD13, PSMD2, PSMA5, PSMA7, PSMC4), with a minimal effect on metabolism features, except the upregulation of genes involved in lactate generation and degradation.

All lines tested showed down-regulation of CCNI2, LCROL, MKI67, NCAPG, PEX10 and UFSP2, suggesting that early response to arginine deprivation includes modulation of UFMylation pathway, the most recently discovered post-translational protein modification system, whose biological function is largely unknown.

Conclusions The removal of Arg from L428 and KMH2 resulted in changes in the specific-amino acid-related metabolites. The adaptive response to Arg-depleted environment increases oxidative stress and promotes a shift in glucose use in the attempt to preserve mitochondrial function. The cell-cycle arrest in G2, the increase of pyruvate availability and the upregulation of proteasome function via upregulation of the UFMylation pathway suggest the dependency of HL cell lines on mitochondrial function integrity. Quantity and function of mitochondria network can play a major role in selecting the fittest clones, a metabolic pathway that should be explored as novel non -synthetic lethal targets.


Martinelli:Stemline Therapeutics: Consultancy; Roche: Consultancy; Astellas: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Daichii Sankyo: Consultancy; Pfizer: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Incyte: Consultancy; Abbvie: Consultancy; Celgene /BMS: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Jazz Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy. Di Raimondo:Pfizer: Honoraria; Jazz Pharmaceutical: Honoraria; Amgen: Honoraria; AbbVie: Honoraria; Bristol Myers Squibb: Honoraria; Janssen Pharmaceuticals: Honoraria.

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