Glutamine deficiency in solid tumor cells confers resistance to ribosomal RNA synthesis inhibitors

Melvin Pan, Christiane Zorbas, Maki Sugaya, Kensuke Ishiguro, Miki Kato, Miyuki Nishida, Hai Feng Zhang, Marco M. Candeias, Akimitsu Okamoto, Takamasa Ishikawa, Tomoyoshi Soga, Hiroyuki Aburatani, Juro Sakai, Yoshihiro Matsumura, Tsutomu Suzuki, Christopher G. Proud, Denis L.J. Lafontaine, Tsuyoshi Osawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Ribosome biogenesis is an energetically expensive program that is dictated by nutrient availability. Here we report that nutrient deprivation severely impairs precursor ribosomal RNA (pre-rRNA) processing and leads to the accumulation of unprocessed rRNAs. Upon nutrient restoration, pre-rRNAs stored under starvation are processed into mature rRNAs that are utilized for ribosome biogenesis. Failure to accumulate pre-rRNAs under nutrient stress leads to perturbed ribosome assembly upon nutrient restoration and subsequent apoptosis via uL5/uL18-mediated activation of p53. Restoration of glutamine alone activates p53 by triggering uL5/uL18 translation. Induction of uL5/uL18 protein synthesis by glutamine is dependent on the translation factor eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2), which is in turn dependent on Raf/MEK/ERK signaling. Depriving cells of glutamine prevents the activation of p53 by rRNA synthesis inhibitors. Our data reveals a mechanism that tumor cells can exploit to suppress p53-mediated apoptosis during fluctuations in environmental nutrient availability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3706
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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