Abrogating cholesterol esterification suppresses growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancer

J. Li, D. Gu, S. S.Y. Lee, B. Song, S. Bandyopadhyay, S. Chen, S. F. Konieczny, T. L. Ratliff, X. Liu, J. Xie, J. X. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Cancer cells are known to execute reprogramed metabolism of glucose, amino acids and lipids. Here, we report a significant role of cholesterol metabolism in cancer metastasis. By using label-free Raman spectromicroscopy, we found an aberrant accumulation of cholesteryl ester in human pancreatic cancer specimens and cell lines, mediated by acyl-CoA cholesterol acyltransferase-1 (ACAT-1) enzyme. Expression of ACAT-1 showed a correlation with poor patient survival. Abrogation of cholesterol esterification, either by an ACAT-1 inhibitor or by shRNA knockdown, significantly suppressed tumor growth and metastasis in an orthotopic mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Mechanically, ACAT-1 inhibition increased intracellular free cholesterol level, which was associated with elevated endoplasmic reticulum stress and caused apoptosis. Collectively, our results demonstrate a new strategy for treating metastatic pancreatic cancer by inhibiting cholesterol esterification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6378-6388
Number of pages11
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We greatly appreciate the help from Dr Tian Shao, Dr Zhiguo Li for their technical support. This work was supported by Indiana State CTSI grant 106564 to JX and JXC, NIH CA182608 to JXC, NCI R25CA128770 CPIP fellowship to JL, NIH CA124586 to SFK, and CA155086 to JX, and NIH grant P30CA023168 to Purdue University Center for Cancer Research for publications.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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