Effect of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM), an allosteric activator of cystathionine-β-synthase (CBS) on colorectal cancer cell proliferation and bioenergetics in vitro

Katalin Módis, Ciro Coletta, Antonia Asimakopoulou, Bartosz Szczesny, Celia Chao, Andreas Papapetropoulos, Mark R. Hellmich, Csaba Szabo

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87 Scopus citations


Recent data show that colon cancer cells selectively overexpress cystathionine-β-synthase (CBS), which produces hydrogen sulfide (H 2S), to maintain cellular bioenergetics, support tumor growth and stimulate angiogenesis and vasorelaxation in the tumor microenvironment. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effect of the allosteric CBS activator S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) on the proliferation and bioenergetics of the CBS-expressing colon cancer cell line HCT116. The non-transformed, non-tumorigenic colon epithelial cell line NCM356 was used as control. For assessment of cell proliferation, the xCELLigence system was used. Bioenergetic function was measured by Extracellular Flux Analysis. Experiments using human recombinant CBS or HCT116 homogenates complemented the cell-based studies. SAM markedly enhanced CBS-mediated H2S production in vitro, especially when a combination of cysteine and homocysteine was used as substrates. Addition ofSAM (0.1-3 mM)to HCT116 cells induced a concentration-dependent increase H2S production. SAM exerted time- And concentration-dependent modulatory effects on cell proliferation. At 0.1-1 mM SAM increased HCT116 proliferation between 0 and 12 h, while the highest SAM concentration (3 mM) inhibited proliferation. Over a longer time period (12-24 h), only the lowest concentration of SAM used (0.1 mM) stimulated cell proliferation; higher SAM concentrations produced a concentration-dependent inhibition. The short-term stimulatory effects of SAM were attenuated by the CBS inhibitor aminooxyacetic acid (AOAA) or by stable silencing of CBS. In contrast, the inhibitory effects of SAM on cell proliferation was unaffected by CBS inhibition or CBS silencing. In contrast to HCT116 cells, the lower rate of proliferation of the low-CBS expressor NCM356 cells was unaffected by SAM. Short-term (1 h) exposure of HCT116 cells to SAM induced a concentration-dependent increase in oxygen consumption and bioenergetic function at 0.1-1 mM, while 3 mM was inhibitory. Longer-term (72 h) exposure of HCT116 cells to all concentrations of SAM tested suppressed mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate, cellular ATP content and cell viability. The stimulatory effect of SAM on bioenergetics was attenuated in cells with stable CBS silencing, while the inhibitory effects were unaffected. In NCM356 cells SAM exerted smaller effects on cellular bioenergetics than in HCT116 cells. We have also observed a downregulation of CBS in response to prolonged exposure of SAM both in HCT116 and NCM356 cells. Taken together, the results demonstrate that H2S production in HCT116 cells is stimulated by the allosteric CBS activator, SAM. At low-to intermediate levels and early time periods the resulting H2S serves as an endogenous cancer cell growth and bioenergetic factor. In contrast, the inhibition of cell proliferation and bioenergetic function by SAM does not appear to relate to adverse autocrine effects of H2S resulting from CBS over-stimulation but, rather to CBS-independent pharmacological effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-156
Number of pages11
JournalNitric Oxide - Biology and Chemistry
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014


  • Allosteric modulation
  • Bioenergetics
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Mitochondria
  • Proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research


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