Izreig S, et al. Cell Rep Med 2020.
Cancer cells display metabolic plasticity to survive stresses in the tumor microenvironment. Cellular adaptation to energetic stress is coordinated in part by signaling through the liver kinase B1 (LKB1)-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway. Here, we demonstrate that miRNA-mediated silencing of LKB1 confers sensitivity of lymphoma cells to mitochondrial inhibition by biguanides. Using both classic (phenformin) and newly developed (IM156) biguanides, we demonstrate that elevated miR-17∼92 expression in Myc + lymphoma cells promotes increased apoptosis to biguanide treatment in vitro and in vivo. This effect is driven by the miR-17-dependent silencing of LKB1, which reduces AMPK activation in response to complex I inhibition. Mechanistically, biguanide treatment induces metabolic stress in Myc + lymphoma cells by inhibiting TCA cycle metabolism and mitochondrial respiration, exposing metabolic vulnerability. Finally, we demonstrate a direct correlation between miR-17∼92 expression and biguanide sensitivity in human cancer cells. Our results identify miR-17∼92 expression as a potential biomarker for biguanide sensitivity in malignancies.