As an integral aspect of the metabolic reprogramming that occurs in cancer, oncogenic KRAS mutations drive the stimulation of macropinocytosis, a type of endocytosis that mediates nonselective fluid-phase uptake. Using KRAS-driven models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), we were the first to demonstrate that macropinocytosis functions in tumor cells as a nutrient acquisition pathway. Macropinocytosis triggers the internalization of extracellular proteins via discrete endocytic vesicles called macropinosomes. The incoming protein cargo is targeted for lysosome-dependent degradation, causing the intracellular release of amino acids. These protein-derived amino acids support metabolic fitness by contributing to the intracellular amino acid pools, as well as to the biosynthesis of central carbon metabolites. In this way, macropinocytosis represents a novel amino acid supply route that tumor cells use to survive the nutrient-poor conditions of the tumor microenvironment. While the tenets of the signal transduction events that drive macropinocytosis in cancer have emerged, a detailed picture of the macropinosome itself is not yet available. With the aid of nanotechnology, we have developed a methodology to isolate a pure fraction of macropinosomes from PDAC cells. Using a large-scale proteomic approach, we have been able to generate a list of proteins that reside in macropinosomes. The specificity of this approach was confirmed through the identification and validation of proteins known to specifically localize to these organelles in different contexts, such as Rab5 or SDC1. Thanks to this innovative method, we have demonstrated the involvement of two calcium channels, ATP2B1 and ATP2B4, in the formation of macropinosomes. By elucidating the molecular anatomy of KRAS-driven macropinosomes, we will gain further insight into the regulation and function of macropinocytosis in cancer. Moreover, having a clearer picture of the macropinosome will make us better positioned to exploit this pathway therapeutically and deliver breakthroughs to patients.

Citation Format: Ambroise Manceau, Koen M.O. Galenkamp, Cheska M. Galapate, Cosimo Commisso. The macropinosome: Uncovering the molecular anatomy of an oncogene-driven organelle [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference in Cancer Research: Pancreatic Cancer; 2023 Sep 27-30; Boston, Massachusetts. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2024;84(2 Suppl):Abstract nr B088.