Butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced by the colonic bacterial fermentation is able to induce cell growth inhibition and differentiation in colon cancer cells at least partially through its capacity to inhibit histone deacetylases. Since butyrate is expected to impact cellular metabolic pathways in colon cancer cells, we hypothesize that it could exert its antiproliferative properties by altering cellular metabolism. We show that although Caco2 colon cancer cells oxidized both butyrate and glucose into CO2, they displayed a higher oxidation rate with butyrate as substrate than with glucose. Furthermore, butyrate pretreatment led to an increase cell capacity to oxidize butyrate and a decreased capacity to oxidize glucose, suggesting that colon cancer cells, which are initially highly glycolytic, can switch to a butyrate utilizing phenotype, and preferentially oxidize butyrate instead of glucose as energy source to produce acetyl coA. Butyrate pretreated cells displayed a modulation of glutamine metabolism characterized by an increased incorporation of carbons derived from glutamine into lipids and a reduced lactate production. The butyrate-stimulated glutamine utilization is linked to pyruvate dehydrogenase complex since dichloroacetate reverses this effect. Furthermore, butyrate positively regulates gene expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases and this effect involves a hyperacetylation of histones at PDK4 gene promoter level. Our data suggest that butyrate exerts two distinct effects to ensure the regulation of glutamine metabolism: it provides acetyl coA needed for fatty acid synthesis, and it also plays a role in the control of the expression of genes involved in glucose utilization leading to the inactivation of PDC.
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