Cysteine Depletion, a Key Action to Challenge Cancer Cells to Ferroptotic Cell Death.Front Oncol. 2020; 10:723.FO
Cancer cells are characterized as highly proliferative at the expense of enhancement of metabolic rate. Consequently, cancer cells rely on antioxidant defenses to overcome the associated increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The reliance of tumor metabolism on amino acids, especially amino acid transport systems, has been extensively studied over the past decade. Although cysteine is the least abundant amino acid in the cell, evidences described it as one of the most important amino acid for cell survival and growth. Regarding its multi-functionality as a nutrient, protein folding, and major component for redox balance due to its involvement in glutathione synthesis, disruption of cysteine homeostasis appears to be promising strategy for induction of cancer cell death. Ten years ago, ferroptosis, a new form of non-apoptotic cell death, has been described as a result of cysteine insufficiency leading to a collapse of intracellular glutathione level. In the present review, we summarized the metabolic networks involving the amino acid cysteine in cancer and ferroptosis and we focused on describing the recently discovered glutathione-independent pathway, a potential player in cancer ferroptosis resistance. Then, we discuss the implication of cysteine as key player in ferroptosis as a precursor for glutathione first, but also as metabolic precursor in glutathione-independent ferroptosis axis.