Although poorly understood, normal cells and cancerous cells of the same type exhibit different patterns of nutrient consumption, processing and utility of metabolic substrates. Differences in substrate uptake, preference, and alternately emphasized metabolic pathways offer opportunities for selective targeting of cancer versus stroma. This may be accomplished by using a sequential approach of nutrient deprivation and pharmaceutical perturbation of metabolic pathways to inhibit cellular proliferation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of restricting glucose and glutamine concentrations, in vitro, to levels that resemble a potential human fasting state. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a mediator of nutrient sensation, was then inhibited with rapamycin in the nutrient-restricted conditions. Because active Akt/mTOR is implicated in cancer cell pro-survival, the hypothesis is that pharmaceutical inhibition of active Akt/mTOR signaling in combination with the stress of restricted nutrient supply will be more effective than nutrient deprivation alone at disrupting metabolic processes to impair cancer cell proliferation and/or pro-survival mechanisms. Untreated and treated conditions were tested to determine if an additive or synergistic effect would result from a sequential insult of nutrient deprivation followed by inhibited mTORC1 signaling. The cell line used for this study was cultivated from a murine pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PANIN) derived from a transgenic mouse with pancreatic tissue-specific expression of constitutively active Akt. The transgene of Akt, isoform 1, contains a myristoyl tag that facilitates co-localization of Akt to the plasma membrane, thereby promoting the activation of this signaling protein.; This aberrantly activated Akt represents a prosurvival condition observed in most cancers, and impacts metabolic balance with increased downstream signaling to metabolic sensors and regulators, including mTORC1. Several methods were used to evaluate changes in metabolic and physiological response to nutrient deprivation and mTORC1 inhibition. These included tetrazolium reduction/absorbance readings to qualitatively evaluate differences in cell proliferation, and Western immunoblots for observing changes in protein expression and phosphorylation. ATP luminescence assays were applied to quantify intracellular ATP content, and citrate synthase spectrophotometry used to quantify specific activity/indicate changes in the TCA/OXPHOS production of ATP. Results from the above methods suggest that, individually, nutrient deprivation and rapamycin treatment share some similar effects on metabolically-related protein phosphorylation and in reducing cellular proliferation. Collectively, nutrient deprivation plus rapamycin treatment, however, resulted in unanticipated metabolic alterations under conditions used for this study, the complexities of which would need to be delineated in future studies.


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Thesis Completion





Altomare, Deborah A.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Molecular Biology and Microbiology


Dissertations, Academic -- Medicine;Medicine -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis