Tumor-Stroma Mechanics Coordinate Amino Acid Availability to Sustain Tumor Growth and Malignancy


Dysregulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition and cellular metabolism promotes tumor aggressiveness by sustaining the activity of key growth, invasion, and survival pathways. Yet mechanisms by which biophysical properties of ECM relate to metabolic processes and tumor progression remain undefined. In both cancer cells and carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), we found that ECM stiffening mechanoactivates glycolysis and glutamine metabolism and thus coordinates non-essential amino acid flux within the tumor niche. Specifically, we demonstrate a metabolic crosstalk between CAF and cancer cells in which CAF-derived aspartate sustains cancer cell proliferation, while cancer cell-derived glutamate balances the redox state of CAFs to promote ECM remodeling. Collectively, our findings link mechanical stimuli to dysregulated tumor metabolism and thereby highlight a new metabolic network within tumors in which diverse fuel sources are used to promote growth and aggressiveness. Furthermore, this study identifies potential metabolic drug targets for therapeutic development in cancer.

Cell Metabolism