Malignant tumors reprogram cellular metabolism to support cancer cell proliferation and survival. Although most cancers depend on a high rate of aerobic glycolysis, many cancer cells also display addiction to glutamine. Glutamine transporters and glutaminase activity are critical for glutamine metabolism in tumor cells. We found that the receptor tyrosine kinase EphA2 activated the TEAD family transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ (YAP/TAZ), likely in a ligand-independent manner, to promote glutamine metabolism in cells and mouse models of HER2-positive breast cancer. Overexpression of EphA2 induced the nuclear accumulation of YAP and TAZ and increased the expression of YAP/TAZ target genes. Inhibition of the GTPase Rho or the kinase ROCK abolished EphA2-dependent YAP/TAZ nuclear localization. Silencing YAP or TAZ substantially reduced the amount of intracellular glutamate through decreased expression of SLC1A5 and GLS, respectively, genes that encode proteins that promote glutamine uptake and metabolism. The regulatory DNA elements of both SLC1A5 and GLS contain TEAD binding sites and were bound by TEAD4 in an EphA2-dependent manner. In patient breast cancer tissues, EphA2 expression positively correlated with that of YAP and TAZ, as well as that of GLS and SLC1A5. Although high expression or EphA2 predicted enhanced metastatic potential and poor patient survival, it also rendered HER2-positive breast cancer cells more sensitive to glutaminase inhibition. The findings define a previously unknown mechanism of EphA2-mediated glutaminolysis through YAP/TAZ activation in HER2-positive breast cancer and identify therapeutic targets in patients.

Citation Format: Deanna N. Edwards, Verra M. Ngwa, Shan Wang, Eileen Shiuan, Dana Brantley-Sieders, Laura Kim, Albert B. Reynolds, Jin Chen. The receptor tyrosine kinase EphA2 promotes glutamine metabolism in tumors by activating the transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 1452.