Gastric cancer and breast cancer have a clear tendency toward metastasis and invasion to the microenvironment predominantly composed of adipocytes. Oleic acid is an abundant monounsaturated fatty acid that releases from adipocytes and impinges on different energy metabolism responses. The effect and underlying mechanisms of oleic acid on highly metastatic cancer cells are not completely understood. We reported that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) was obviously activated in highly aggressive carcinoma cell lines treated by oleic acid, including gastric carcinoma HGC-27 and breast carcinoma MDA-MB-231 cell lines. AMPK enhanced the rates of fatty acid oxidation and ATP production and thus significantly promoted cancer growth and migration under serum deprivation. Inactivation of AMPK attenuated these activities of oleic acid. Oleic acid inhibited cancer cell growth and survival in low metastatic carcinoma cells, such as gastric carcinoma SGC7901 and breast carcinoma MCF-7 cell lines. Pharmacological activation of AMPK rescued the cell viability by maintained ATP levels by increasing fatty acid β-oxidation. These results indicate that highly metastatic carcinoma cells could consume oleic acid to maintain malignancy in an AMPK-dependent manner. Our findings demonstrate the important contribution of fatty acid oxidation to cancer cell function.
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