Expression and function of SLC38A5, an amino acid-coupled Na+/H+ exchanger, in triple-negative breast cancer and its relevance to macropinocytosis

Sabarish Ramachandran, Souad R. Sennoune, Monica Sharma, Muthusamy Thangaraju, Varshini V. Suresh, Tyler Sneigowski, Yangzom D. Bhutia, Kevin Pruitt, Vadivel Ganapathy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Metabolic reprogramming in cancer necessitates increased amino acid uptake, which is accomplished by up-regulation of specific amino acid transporters. However, not all tumors rely on any single amino acid transporter for this purpose. Here, we report on the differential up-regulation of the amino acid transporter SLC38A5 in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The up-regulation is evident in TNBC tumors, conventional and patient-derived xenograft TNBC cell lines, and a mouse model of spontaneous TNBC mammary tumor. The up-regulation is confirmed by functional assays. SLC38A5 is an amino acid-dependent Na+/H+ exchanger which transports Na+ and amino acids into cells coupled with H+ efflux. Since cell-surface Na+/H+ exchanger is an established inducer of macropinocytosis, an endocytic process for cellular uptake of bulk fluid and its components, we examined the impact of SLC38A5 on macropinocytosis in TNBC cells. We found that the transport function of SLC38A5 is coupled to the induction of macropinocytosis. Surprisingly, the transport function of SLC38A5 is inhibited by amilorides, the well-known inhibitors of Na+/H+ exchanger. Down-regulation of SLC38A5 in TNBC cells attenuates serine-induced macropinocytosis and reduces cell proliferation significantly as assessed by multiple methods, but does not induce cell death. The Cancer Genome Atlas database corroborates SLC38A5 up-regulation in TNBC. This represents the first report on the selective expression of SLC38A5 in TNBC and its role as an inducer of macropinocytosis, thus revealing a novel, hitherto unsuspected, function for an amino acid transporter that goes beyond amino acid delivery but is still relevant to cancer cell nutrition and proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3957-3976
Number of pages20
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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