Extracellular free amino acids contribute to the interaction between a tumor and its microenvironment through effects on cellular metabolism and malignant behavior. System xc(-) is composed of xCT and CD98hc subunits and functions as a plasma membrane antiporter for the uptake of extracellular cystine in exchange for intracellular glutamate. Here, we show that the EGFR interacts with xCT and thereby promotes its cell surface expression and function inhumanglioma cells. EGFR-expressing glioma cells manifested both enhanced antioxidant capacity as a result of increased cystine uptake, as well as increased glutamate, which promotes matrix invasion. Imaging mass spectrometry also revealed that brain tumors formed in mice by human glioma cells stably overexpressing EGFR contained higher levels of reduced glutathione compared with those formed by parental cells. Targeted inhibition of xCT suppressed the EGFR-dependent enhancement of antioxidant capacity in glioma cells, as well as tumor growth and invasiveness. Our findings establish a new functional role for EGFR in promoting the malignant potential of glioma cells through interaction with xCT at the cell surface.
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