Dynamic IL-6R/STAT3 signaling leads to heterogeneity of metabolic phenotype in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells.
Blaszczak W., White B., Monterisi S., Swietach P.
Malignancy is enabled by pro-growth mutations and adequate energy provision. However, global metabolic activation would be self-terminating if it depleted tumor resources. Cancer cells could avoid this by rationing resources, e.g., dynamically switching between "baseline" and "activated" metabolic states. Using single-cell metabolic phenotyping of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells, we identify MIA-PaCa-2 as having broad heterogeneity of fermentative metabolism. Sorting by a readout of lactic acid permeability separates cells by fermentative and respiratory rates. Contrasting phenotypes persist for 4 days and are unrelated to cell cycling or glycolytic/respiratory gene expression; however, transcriptomics links metabolically active cells with interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R)-STAT3 signaling. We verify this by IL-6R/STAT3 knockdowns and sorting by IL-6R status. IL-6R/STAT3 activates fermentation and transcription of its inhibitor, SOCS3, resulting in delayed negative feedback that underpins transitions between metabolic states. Among cells manifesting wide metabolic heterogeneity, dynamic IL-6R/STAT3 signaling may allow cell cohorts to take turns in progressing energy-intense processes without depleting shared resources.