Reduced succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activity resulting in adverse succinate accumulation was previously considered relevant only in 0.05 to 0.5% of kidney cancers associated with germline SDH mutations. Here, we sought to examine a broader role for SDH loss in kidney cancer pathogenesis/progression. We report that underexpression of SDH subunits resulting in accumulation of oncogenic succinate is a common feature in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) (∼80% of all kidney cancers), with a marked adverse impact on survival in ccRCC patients (n = 516). We show that SDH down-regulation is a critical brake in the TCA cycle during ccRCC pathogenesis and progression. In exploring mechanisms of SDH down-regulation in ccRCC, we report that Von Hippel-Lindau loss-induced hypoxia-inducible factor–dependent up-regulation of miR-210 causes direct inhibition of the SDHD transcript. Moreover, shallow deletion of SDHB occurs in ∼20% of ccRCC. We then demonstrate that SDH loss-induced succinate accumulation contributes to adverse loss of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, gain of 5-methylcytosine, and enhanced invasiveness in ccRCC via inhibition of ten-eleven translocation (TET)-2 activity. Intriguingly, binding affinity between the catalytic domain of recombinant TET-2 and succinate was found to be very low, suggesting that the mechanism of succinate-induced attenuation of TET-2 activity is likely via product inhibition rather than competitive inhibition. Finally, exogenous ascorbic acid, a TET-activating demethylating agent, led to reversal of the above oncogenic effects of succinate in ccRCC cells. Collectively, our study demonstrates that functional SDH deficiency is a common adverse feature of ccRCC and not just limited to the kidney cancers associated with germline SDH mutations.
- succinate dehydrogenase
- kidney cancer