Englerin A induces an acute inflammatory response and reveals lipid metabolism and ER stress as targetable vulnerabilities in renal cell carcinoma

Ayse Batova, Diego Altomare, Kim E. Creek, Robert K. Naviaux, Lin Wang, Kefeng Li, Erica Green, Richard Williams, Jane C. Naviaux, Mitchell Diccianni, Alice L. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is among the top ten most common forms of cancer and is the most common malignancy of the kidney. Clear cell renal carcinoma (cc-RCC), the most common type of RCC, is one of the most refractory cancers with an incidence that is on the rise. Screening of plant extracts in search of new anti-cancer agents resulted in the discovery of englerin A, a guaiane sesquiterpene with potent cytotoxicity against renal cancer cells and a small subset of other cancer cells. Though a few cellular targets have been identified for englerin A, it is still not clear what mechanisms account for the cytotoxicity of englerin A in RCC, which occurs at concentrations well below those used to engage the targets previously identified. Unlike any prior study, the current study used a systems biology approach to explore the mechanism(s) of action of englerin A. Metabolomics analyses indicated that englerin A profoundly altered lipid metabolism by 24 h in cc-RCC cell lines and generated significant levels of ceramides that were highly toxic to these cells. Microarray analyses determined that englerin A induced ER stress signaling and an acute inflammatory response, which was confirmed by quantitative PCR and Western Blot analyses. Additionally, fluorescence confocal microscopy revealed that englerin A at 25 nM disrupted the morphology of the ER confirming the deleterious effect of englerin A on the ER. Collectively, our findings suggest that cc-RCC is highly sensitive to disruptions in lipid metabolism and ER stress and that these vulnerabilities can be targeted for the treatment of cc-RCC and possibly other lipid storing cancers. Furthermore, our results suggest that ceramides may be a mediator of some of the actions of englerin A. Lastly, the acute inflammatory response induced by englerin A may mediate anti-tumor immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0172632
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


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