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Accumulation of lipid droplets has been observed in an increasing range of tumors. However, the molecular determinants of this phenotype and the impact of the tumor microenvironment on lipid droplet dynamics are not well defined. The hypoxia-inducible and lipid droplet associated protein HILPDA is known to regulate lipid storage and physiologic responses to feeding conditions in mice, and was recently shown to promote hypoxic lipid droplet formation through inhibition of the rate-limiting lipase adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL). Here, we identify fatty acid loading and nutrient deprivation-induced autophagy as stimuli of HILPDA-dependent lipid droplet growth. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts and human tumor cells, we found that genetic ablation of HILPDA compromised hypoxia-fatty acid- and starvation-induced lipid droplet formation and triglyceride storage. Nutrient deprivation upregulated HILPDA protein posttranscriptionally by a mechanism requiring autophagic flux and lipid droplet turnover, independent of HIF1 transactivation. Mechanistically, loss of HILPDA led to elevated lipolysis, which could be corrected by inhibition of ATGL. Lipidomic analysis revealed not only quantitative but also qualitative differences in the glycerolipid and phospholipid profile of HILPDA wild-type and knockout cells, indicating additional HILPDA functions affecting lipid metabolism. Deletion studies of HILPDA mutants identified the N-terminal hydrophobic domain as sufficient for targeting to lipid droplets and restoration of triglyceride storage. In vivo, HILPDA-ablated cells showed decreased intratumoral triglyceride levels and impaired xenograft tumor growth associated with elevated levels of apoptosis. IMPLICATIONS: Tumor microenvironmental stresses induce changes in lipid droplet dynamics via HILPDA. Regulation of triglyceride hydrolysis is crucial for cell homeostasis and tumor growth.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cancer Res

Publication Date





2089 - 2101