BCATC modulates crosstalk between the PIK/AKT and the RAS/ERK pathway regulating proliferation in triple negative breast cancer

M. Shafei, Thomas Forshaw, Jasmine Davis, A Flemban, J D Qualtrough, S Dean, Claire M Perks, M Dong, R Newman, M Conway*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
77 Downloads (Pure)


The cytosolic branched chain aminotransferase (BCATc) protein has been found to be highly expressed in breast cancer subtypes, including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), compared with normal breast tissue. The catabolism of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) by BCATc leads to the production of glutamate and key metabolites which further drive the TCA cycle, important for cellular metabolism and growth. Upregulation of BCATc has been associated with increased cell proliferation, cell cycle progression and metastasis in several malignancies including breast, gliomas, ovarian and colorectal cancer but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. As nutrient levels of BCAAs, substrates of BCATc, regulate the P13K/Akt pathway we hypothesized that increased expression of BCATc would contribute to tumour cell growth through upregulation of the insulin/IGF-1 signalling pathway. This pathway is known to potentiate proliferation and metastasis of malignant cells through the activation of PI3K/Akt and the RAS/ERK signalling cascades. Here we show that knockdown of BCATc significantly reduced insulin and IGF-1-mediated proliferation, migration and invasion of TNBC cells. An analysis of this pathway showed that when overexpressed BCATc regulates proliferation through the PI3K/Akt axis, whilst simultaneously attenuating the Ras/Erk pathway indicating that BCATc acts as a conduit between these two pathways. This ultimately led to an increase in FOXO3a, a key regulator of cell proliferation and Nrf2, which mediates redox homeostasis. Together this data indicates that BCATc regulates TNBC cell proliferation, migration and invasion through the IGF-1/insulin PI3K/Akt pathway, culminating in the upregulation of FOXO3a and Nrf2, pointing to a novel therapeutic target for breast cancer treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1971-1987
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020


  • BCAT
  • PI3K/Akt
  • Ras/ERK
  • proliferation


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