Published on Thu Jul 15 2021

Nucleotide Biosynthesis Links Glutathione Metabolism to Ferroptosis Sensitivity

Tarangelo, A., Kim, J. T., Long, J. Z., Dixon, S. J.

Nucleotide synthesis is a metabolically demanding process essential for cell division. Several anti-cancer drugs that inhibit nucleotide metabolism induce apoptosis. Here, we report that the p53 pathway is sufficient to suppress the non-apoptotic cell death process of ferroptosis.

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Abstract

Nucleotide synthesis is a metabolically demanding process essential for cell division. Several anti-cancer drugs that inhibit nucleotide metabolism induce apoptosis. How inhibition of nucleotide metabolism impacts non-apoptotic cell death is less clear. Here, we report that inhibition of nucleotide metabolism by the p53 pathway is sufficient to suppress the non-apoptotic cell death process of ferroptosis. Mechanistically, stabilization of wild-type p53 and induction of the p53 target gene CDKN1A (p21) leads to decreased expression of the ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) subunits RRM1 and RRM2. RNR is the rate-limiting enzyme of de novo nucleotide synthesis that reduces ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides in a glutathione-dependent manner. Direct inhibition of RNR conserves glutathione which can then be used to limit the accumulation of toxic lipid peroxides, preventing the onset of ferroptosis. These results support a mechanism linking p53-dependent regulation of nucleotide metabolism to non-apoptotic cell death.