Cystathionine-γ-lyase drives antioxidant defense in cysteine-restricted IDH1-mutant astrocytomas

Andrés Cano-Galiano, Anaïs Oudin, Fred Fack, Maria-Francesca Allega, David Sumpton, Elena Martinez-Garcia, Gunnar Dittmar, Ann-Christin Hau, Alfonso De Falco, Christel Herold-Mende, Rolf Bjerkvig, Johannes Meiser, Saverio Tardito, Simone P Niclou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 or 2 (IDH1/2) define glioma subtypes and are considered primary events in gliomagenesis, impacting tumor epigenetics and metabolism. IDH enzyme activity is crucial for the generation of reducing potential in normal cells, yet the impact of the mutation on the cellular antioxidant system in glioma is not understood. The aim of this study was to determine how glutathione (GSH), the main antioxidant in the brain, is maintained in IDH1-mutant gliomas, despite an altered NADPH/NADP balance.

Methods: Proteomics, metabolomics, metabolic tracer studies, genetic silencing, and drug targeting approaches in vitro and in vivo were applied. Analyses were done in clinical specimen of different glioma subtypes, in glioma patient-derived cell lines carrying the endogenous IDH1 mutation and corresponding orthotopic xenografts in mice.

Results: We find that cystathionine-γ-lyase (CSE), the enzyme responsible for cysteine production upstream of GSH biosynthesis, is specifically upregulated in IDH1-mutant astrocytomas. CSE inhibition sensitized these cells to cysteine depletion, an effect not observed in IDH1 wild-type gliomas. This correlated with an increase in reactive oxygen species and reduced GSH synthesis. Propargylglycine (PAG), a brain-penetrant drug specifically targeting CSE, led to delayed tumor growth in mice.

Conclusions: We show that IDH1-mutant astrocytic gliomas critically rely on NADPH-independent de novo GSH synthesis via CSE to maintain the antioxidant defense, which highlights a novel metabolic vulnerability that may be therapeutically exploited.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbervdab057
JournalNeuro-Oncology Advances
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021


  • Antioxidant defense
  • cysteine
  • glioma
  • glutathione
  • IDH mutation
  • transsulfuration pathway


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