The use of metabolomics technologies and stable isotope labeling recently enabled us to discover an unexpected role of N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG): NAAG is a glutamate reservoir for cancer cells. In the current study, we first found that glucose carbon contributes to the formation of NAAG and its precursors via glycolysis, demonstrating the existence of a glucose-NAAG-glutamate cycle in cancer cells. Second, we found that glucose carbon and, unexpectedly, glutamine carbon contribute to the formation of lactate via glutaminolysis. Importantly, lactate carbon can be incorporated into glucose via gluconeogenesis, demonstrating the existence of a glutamine-lactate-glucose cycle. While a glucose-lactate-glucose cycle was expected, the finding of a glutamine-lactate-glucose cycle was unforeseen. And third, we discovered that glutamine carbon is incorporated into γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), revealing a glutamate-GABA-succinate cycle. Thus, NAAG, lactate, and GABA can play important roles as storage molecules for glutamate, glucose, and succinate carbon in oncogenic MYC-transformed P493 lymphoma B cells (MYC-ON cells) but not in non-oncogenic MYC-OFF cells. Altogether, examining the isotopic labeling patterns of metabolites derived from labeled C-glucose or CN-glutamine helped reveal the presence of what we have named “metabolic reservoir cycles” in oncogenic cells.
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