Cytokines decrease glutaminase expression in human fibroblasts

P. Sarantos, A. Abouhamze, S. Abcouwer, R. Chakrabarti, E. M. Copeland, W. W. Souba*, A. Barbul, T. Billiar, J. E. Albina, D. Greenhalgh, R. A. Forse, S. I. Myers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background. Glutamine metabolism in fibroblasts is essential for energy production, nucleotide biosynthesis, and growth during wound healing. Because cytokines can impair fibroblast proliferation, we tested the hypothesis that cytokines impair glutamine metabolism. We studied the influence of several cytokines on the expression of glutaminase, the major enzyme of intracellular glutamine metabolism in fibroblasts. Methods. Human foreskin fibroblasts were incubated for 6 and 12 hours with varying doses (10, 100, or 1000 units/ml) of interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, or γ-interferon. Cell lysates were assayed for glutaminase-specific activity, and glutaminase protein content was measured by Western blotting with a polyclonal antibody. Total cellular RNA was extracted, and relative glutaminase messenger RNA levels were determined by Northern blotting with a 32P-labeled glutaminase complement DNA-derived probe. These mRNA levels were normalized by blotting with a β-actin cDNA-derived probe as control. Cell nuclei were isolated, and nuclear run-ons were used to determine relative glutaminase mRNA transcription rates. Results. IL-1, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, and γ- interferon decreased glutaminase activity and protein concentration after a 12-hour incubation in a dose-independent fashion. No difference was noted at 6 hours. Western blot analysis showed a 30% to 60% reduction in glutaminase protein in treated cells. These cytokines also decreased glutaminase mRNA levels, consistent with transcriptional regulation. This was confirmed by nuclear run-on assays that showed a decrease in the number of glutaminase transcripts. Conclusions. A variety of different pro-inflammatory cytokines decrease glutaminase expression in cultured human fibroblasts. This cytokine- mediated inhibition of glutamine metabolism may limit the availability of key glutamine-derived intermediates and impair fibroblast proliferation in certain patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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