Repository logo

The role of branched-chain aminotransferase 1 in driving glioblastoma cell proliferation and invasion varies with tumor subtype.

Published version

Repository DOI

Change log


Fala, Maria 
Ros, Susana 
Sawle, Ashley 
Rao, Jyotsna U 
Tsyben, Anastasia 


BACKGROUND: Branched-chain aminotransferase 1 (BCAT1) has been proposed to drive proliferation and invasion of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) wild-type glioblastoma cells. However, the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset shows considerable variation in the expression of this enzyme in glioblastoma. The aim of this study was to determine the role of BCAT1 in driving the proliferation and invasion of glioblastoma cells and xenografts that have widely differing levels of BCAT1 expression and the mechanism responsible. METHODS: The activity of BCAT1 was modulated in IDH wild-type patient-derived glioblastoma cell lines, and in orthotopically implanted tumors derived from these cells, to examine the effects of BCAT1 expression on tumor phenotype. RESULTS: In cells with constitutively high BCAT1 expression and a glycolytic metabolic phenotype, inducible shRNA knockdown of the enzyme resulted in reduced proliferation and invasion by increasing the concentration of α-ketoglutarate, leading to reduced DNA methylation, HIF-1α destabilization, and reduced expression of the transcription factor Forkhead box protein M1 (FOXM1). Conversely, overexpression of the enzyme increased HIF-1α expression and promoted proliferation and invasion. However, in cells with an oxidative phenotype and very low constitutive expression of BCAT1 increased expression of the enzyme had no effect on invasion and reduced cell proliferation. This occurred despite an increase in HIF-1α levels and could be explained by decreased TCA cycle flux. CONCLUSIONS: There is a wide variation in BCAT1 expression in glioblastoma and its role in proliferation and invasion is dependent on tumor subtype.


Acknowledgements: We thank the Histopathology, Flow Cytometry, Genomics, Research Instrumentation and Cell Services, Biological Resources Unit, Pharmacokinetics and Analytics, and Bioinformatics core facilities of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute for their advice and help in performing the experiments. We acknowledge the administrative support of Sarah McGuire.


alpha-ketoglutarate, branched-chain aminotransferase, glioblastoma, hypoxia-inducible factor, proliferation

Journal Title

Neurooncol Adv

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Oxford University Press (OUP)
Cancer Research UK (C14303/A17197)
Cancer Research UK (CB4100)
Rosetrees Trust (M723)
Rosetrees Trust (A1698)
Cancer Research UK Rosetrees Trust