GSK3α Regulates Temporally Dynamic Changes in Ribosomal Proteins upon Amino Acid Starvation in Cancer Cells

Amino acid availability is crucial for cancer cells' survivability. Leukemia and colorectal cancer cells have been shown to resist asparagine depletion by utilizing GSK3-dependent proteasomal degradation, termed the Wnt-dependent stabilization of proteins (Wnt/STOP), to replenish their amino acid pool. The inhibition of GSK3α halts the sourcing of amino acids, which subsequently leads to cancer cell vulnerability toward asparaginase therapy. However, resistance toward GSK3α-mediated protein breakdown can occur, whose underlying mechanism is poorly understood. Here, we set out to define the mechanisms driving dependence toward this degradation machinery upon asparagine starvation in cancer cells. We show the independence of known stress response pathways including the integrated stress response mediated with GCN2. Additionally, we demonstrate the independence of changes in cell cycle progression and expression levels of the asparagine-synthesizing enzyme ASNS. Instead, RNA sequencing revealed that GSK3α inhibition and asparagine starvation leads to the temporally dynamic downregulation of distinct ribosomal proteins, which have been shown to display anti-proliferative functions. Using a CRISPR/Cas9 viability screen, we demonstrate that the downregulation of these specific ribosomal proteins can rescue cell death upon GSK3α inhibition and asparagine starvation. Thus, our findings suggest the vital role of the previously unrecognized regulation of ribosomal proteins in bridging GSK3α activity and tolerance of asparagine starvation.

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