Metabolomics identifies the intersection of phosphoethanolamine with menaquinone-triggered apoptosis in an in vitro model of leukemia†
Altered metabolism is increasingly acknowledged as an important aspect of cancer, and thus serves as a potentially fertile area for the identification of therapeutic targets or leads. Our recent work using transcriptional data to predict metabolite levels in cancer cells led to preliminary evidence of the antiproliferative role of menaquinone (vitamin K2) in the Jurkat cell line model of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. However, nothing is known about the direct metabolic impacts of menaquinone in cancer, which could provide insights into its mechanism of action. Here, we used metabolomics to investigate the process by which menaquinone exerts antiproliferative activity on Jurkat cells. We first validated the dose-dependent, semi-selective, pro-apoptotic activity of menaquinone treatment on Jurkat cells relative to non-cancerous lymphoblasts. We then used mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to identify systems-scale changes in metabolic dynamics that are distinct from changes induced in non-cancerous cells or by other chemotherapeutics. One of the most significantly affected metabolites was phosphoethanolamine, which exhibited a two-fold increase in menaquinone-treated Jurkat cells compared to vehicle-treated cells at 24 h, growing to a five-fold increase at 72 h. Phosphoethanolamine elevation was observed prior to the induction of apoptosis, and was not observed in menaquinone-treated lymphoblasts or chemotherapeutic-treated Jurkat cells. We also validated the link between menaquinone and phosphoethanolamine in an ovarian cancer cell line, suggesting potentially broad applicability of their relationship. This metabolomics-based work is the first detailed characterization of the metabolic impacts of menaquinone treatment and the first identified link between phosphoethanolamine and menaquinone-induced apoptosis.