Glycine decarboxylase is a transcriptional target of MYCN required for neuroblastoma cell proliferation and tumorigenicity

Ahmet Alptekin, Bingwei Ye, Yajie Yu, Candace J. Poole, Jan van Riggelen, Yunhong Zha, Han Fei Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Genomic amplification of the oncogene MYCN is a major driver in the development of high-risk neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer with poor prognosis. Given the challenge in targeting MYCN directly for therapy, we sought to identify MYCN-dependent metabolic vulnerabilities that can be targeted therapeutically. Here, we report that the gene encoding glycine decarboxylase (GLDC), which catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step in glycine breakdown with the production of the one-carbon unit 5,10-methylene-tetrahydrofolate, is a direct transcriptional target of MYCN. As a result, GLDC expression is markedly elevated in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma tumors and cell lines. This transcriptional upregulation of GLDC expression is of functional significance, as GLDC depletion by RNA interference inhibits the proliferation and tumorigenicity of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cell lines by inducing G1 arrest. Metabolomic profiling reveals that GLDC knockdown disrupts purine and central carbon metabolism and reduces citrate production, leading to a decrease in the steady-state levels of cholesterol and fatty acids. Moreover, blocking purine or cholesterol synthesis recapitulates the growth-inhibitory effect of GLDC knockdown. These findings reveal a critical role of GLDC in sustaining the proliferation of neuroblastoma cells with high-level GLDC expression and suggest that MYCN amplification is a biomarker for GLDC-based therapeutic strategies against high-risk neuroblastoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7504-7520
Number of pages17
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 12 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Glycine decarboxylase is a transcriptional target of MYCN required for neuroblastoma cell proliferation and tumorigenicity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this