University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Molecular Medicine; Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

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Article Preprint


Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Biochemical Phenomena, Metabolism, and Nutrition | Cancer Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Enzymes and Coenzymes | Lipids


Dysregulated cellular metabolism is a hallmark of cancer. As yet, few druggable oncoproteins directly responsible for this hallmark have been identified. Increased fatty acid acquisition allows cancer cells to meet their membrane biogenesis, ATP, and signaling needs. Excess fatty acids suppress growth factor signaling and cause oxidative stress in non-transformed cells, but surprisingly not in cancer cells. Molecules underlying this cancer adaptation may provide new drug targets. Here, we identify Diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 1 (DGAT1), an enzyme integral to triacylglyceride synthesis and lipid droplet formation, as a frequently up-regulated oncoprotein allowing cancer cells to tolerate excess fatty acids. DGAT1 over-expression alone induced melanoma in zebrafish melanocytes, and co-operated with oncogenic BRAF or NRAS for more rapid melanoma formation. Mechanistically, DGAT1 stimulated melanoma cell growth through sustaining mTOR kinase–S6 kinase signaling and suppressed cell death by tempering fatty acid oxidation, thereby preventing accumulation of reactive oxygen species including lipid peroxides.


cancer biology, metabolism, oncoproteins, fatty acids, lipotoxicity

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The copyright holder for this preprint (which was not peer-reviewed) is the author/funder. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.

DOI of Published Version



bioRxiv 2020.06.23.166603; doi: Link to preprint on bioRxiv service.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.