ARTICLE ABSTRACTCysteine plays critical roles in cellular biosynthesis, enzyme catalysis, and redox metabolism. The intracellular cysteine pool can be sustained by cystine uptake or de novo synthesis from serine and homocysteine. Demand for cysteine is increased during tumorigenesis for generating glutathione to deal with oxidative stress. While cultured cells have been shown to be highly dependent on exogenous cystine for proliferation and survival, how diverse tissues obtain and use cysteine in vivo has not been characterized. We comprehensively interrogated cysteine metabolism in normal murine tissues and cancers that arise from them using stable isotope 13C1-serine and 13C6-cystine tracing. De novo cysteine synthesis was highest in normal liver and pancreas and absent in lung tissue, while cysteine synthesis was either inactive or downregulated during tumorigenesis. In contrast, cystine uptake and metabolism to downstream metabolites was a universal feature of normal tissues and tumors. However, differences in glutathione labeling from cysteine were evident across tumor types. Thus, cystine is a major contributor to the cysteine pool in tumors, and glutathione metabolism is differentially active across tumor types.
Stable isotope 13C1-serine and 13C6-cystine tracing characterizes cysteine metabolism in normal murine tissues and its rewiring in tumors using genetically engineered mouse models of liver, pancreas, and lung cancers.