N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG) is a peptide-based neurotransmitter that has been extensively studied in many neurological diseases. In this study, we show a specific role of NAAG in cancer. We found that NAAG is more abundant in higher grade cancers and is a source of glutamate in cancers expressing glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII), the enzyme that hydrolyzes NAAG to glutamate and N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA). Knocking down GCPII expression through genetic alteration or pharmacological inhibition of GCPII results in a reduction of both glutamate concentrations and cancer growth. Moreover, targeting GCPII in combination with glutaminase inhibition accentuates these effects. These findings suggest that NAAG serves as an important reservoir to provide glutamate to cancer cells through GCPII when glutamate production from other sources is limited. Thus, GCPII is a viable target for cancer therapy, either alone or in combination with glutaminase inhibition.
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)