Metabolic dysregulation promotes cancer growth through not only energy production, but also epigenetic reprogramming. Here, we report that a critical node in methyl donor metabolism, nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT), ranked among the most consistently overexpressed metabolism genes in glioblastoma relative to normal brain. NNMT was preferentially expressed by mesenchymal glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs). NNMT depletes S-adenosyl methionine (SAM), a methyl donor generated from methionine. GSCs contained lower levels of methionine, SAM, and nicotinamide, but they contained higher levels of oxidized nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) than differentiated tumor cells. In concordance with the poor prognosis associated with DNA hypomethylation in glioblastoma, depletion of methionine, a key upstream methyl group donor, shifted tumors toward a mesenchymal phenotype and accelerated tumor growth. Targeting NNMT expression reduced cellular proliferation, self-renewal, and in vivo tumor growth of mesenchymal GSCs. Supporting a mechanistic link between NNMT and DNA methylation, targeting NNMT reduced methyl donor availability, methionine levels, and unmethylated cytosine, with increased levels of DNA methyltransferases, DNMT1 and DNMT3A. Supporting the clinical significance of these findings, NNMT portended poor prognosis for glioblastoma patients. Collectively, our findings support NNMT as a GSC-specific therapeutic target in glioblastoma by disrupting oncogenic DNA hypomethylation.
Jinkyu Jung, Leo J.Y. Kim, Xiuxing Wang, Qiulian Wu, Tanwarat Sanvoranart, Christopher G. Hubert, Briana C. Prager, Lisa C. Wallace, Xun Jin, Stephen C. Mack, Jeremy N. Rich