J Clin Invest. 2020 Oct 20:139929. doi: 10.1172/JCI139929. Online ahead of print.
MYC stimulates both metabolism and protein synthesis, but it is unknown how cells coordinate these complementary programs. Previous work reported that in a subset of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines, MYC activates guanosine triphosphate (GTP) synthesis and results in sensitivity to inhibitors of the GTP synthesis enzyme inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). Here we demonstrated that primary MYCHigh human SCLC tumors also contain abundant guanosine nucleotides. We also found that
elevated MYC in SCLCs with acquired chemoresistance rendered these otherwise recalcitrant tumors dependent on IMPDH. Unexpectedly, our data indicated that IMPDH links the metabolic and protein synthesis outputs of oncogenic MYC. Co-expression analysis placed IMPDH within the MYC-driven ribosome program, and GTP depletion prevented RNA Polymerase I (Pol I) from localizing to ribosomal DNA. Furthermore, the GTPases GPN1 and GPN3 were upregulated by MYC and directed Pol I to ribosomal DNA. Constitutively GTP-bound GPN1/3 mutants mitigated the effect of GTP depletion on Pol I, protecting chemoresistant SCLC cells from IMPDH inhibition. GTP therefore functions as a metabolic gate tethering MYC-dependent ribosome biogenesis to nucleotide sufficiency through GPN1 and GPN3. IMPDH dependence is a targetable vulnerability in chemoresistant, MYCHigh SCLC.