Autophagy inhibition elicits emergence from metastatic dormancy by inducing and stabilizing Pfkfb3 expression

Alyssa La Belle Flynn, Benjamin C. Calhoun, Arishya Sharma, Jenny C. Chang, Alexandru Almasan, William P. Schiemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) are unique in their ability to undergo unlimited self-renewal, an essential process in breast cancer recurrence following metastatic dormancy. Emergent metastatic lesions were subjected to microarray analysis, which identified 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-biphosphatase 3 (Pfkfb3) as a differentially expressed gene coupled to metastatic recurrence. Here, we report that elevated Pfkfb3 expression correlates with the appearance of aggressive breast cancers and reduces relapse-free survival, as well as enhances BCSC self-renewal and metastatic outgrowth. We observe an inverse relationship between Pfkfb3 expression and autophagy, which reduces Pfkfb3 expression and elicits cellular dormancy. Targeted depletion of Atg3, Atg7, or p62/sequestosome-1 to inactivate autophagy restores aberrant Pfkfb3 expression in dormant BCSCs, leading to their reactivation of proliferative programs and outgrowth. Moreover, Pfkfb3 interacts physically with autophagy machinery, specifically the UBA domain of p62/sequestosome-1. Importantly, disrupting autophagy and this event enables Pfkfb3 to drive dormant BCSCs and metastatic lesions to recur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3668
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 14 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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