Aerobic glycolysis and mitochondrial dysfunction are common features of aggressive cancer growth. We observed promoter methylation and loss of expression in neurofilament heavy polypeptide (NEFH) in a significant proportion of primary esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) samples that were of a high tumor grade and advanced stage. RNA interference-mediated knockdown of NEFH accelerated ESCC cell growth in culture and increased tumorigenicity in vivo, whereas forced expression of NEFH significantly inhibited cell growth and colony formation. Loss of NEFH caused up-regulation of pyruvate kinase-M2 type and down-regulation of pyruvate dehydrogenase, via activation of the Akt/β-catenin pathway, resulting in enhanced aerobic glycolysis and mitochondrial dysfunction. The acceleration of glycolysis and mitochondrial dysfunction in NEFH-knockdown cells was suppressed in the absence of β-catenin expression, and was decreased by the treatment of 2-Deoxyglucose, a glycolytic inhibitor, or API-2, an Akt inhibitor. Loss of NEFH activates the Akt/β-catenin pathway and increases glycolysis and mitochondrial dysfunction. Cancer cells with methylated NEFH can be targeted for destruction with specific inhibitors of deregulated downstream pathways.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2010;70(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 5067.