ELOVL5 is a critical and targetable fatty acid elongase in prostate cancer

Margaret M. Centenera, Julia S. Scott, Jelle Machiels, Zeyad D. Nassar, Deanna C. Miller, Irene Zinonos, Jonas Dehairs, Ingrid J.G. Burvenich, Giorgia Zadra, Paolo M. Chetta, Clyde Bango, Emma Evergren, Natalie K. Ryan, Joanna L. Gillis, Chui Yan Mah, Terence Tieu, Adrienne R. Hanson, Ryan Carelli, Katarzyna Bloch, Vasilios PanagopoulosEtienne Waelkens, Rita Derua, Elizabeth D. Williams, Andreas Evdokiou, Anna Cifuentes-Rius, Nicolas H. Voelcker, Ian G. Mills, Wayne D. Tilley, Andrew M. Scott, Massimo Loda, Luke A. Selth, Johannes V. Swinnen, Lisa M. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The androgen receptor (AR) is the key oncogenic driver of prostate cancer, and despite implementation of novel AR targeting therapies, outcomes for metastatic disease remain dismal. There is an urgent need to better understand androgen-regulated cellular processes to more effectively target the AR dependence of prostate cancer cells through new therapeutic vulnerabilities. Transcriptomic studies have consistently identified lipid metabolism as a hallmark of enhanced AR signaling in prostate cancer, yet the relationship between AR and the lipidome remains undefined. Using mass spectrometry-based lipidomics, this study reveals increased fatty acyl chain length in phospholipids from prostate cancer cells and patient-derived explants as one of the most striking androgen-regulated changes to lipid metabolism. Potent and direct AR-mediated induction of ELOVL fatty acid elongase 5 (ELOVL5), an enzyme that catalyzes fatty acid elongation, was demonstrated in prostate cancer cells, xenografts, and clinical tumors. Assessment of mRNA and protein in large-scale data sets revealed ELOVL5 as the predominant ELOVL expressed and upregulated in prostate cancer compared with nonmalignant prostate. ELOVL5 depletion markedly altered mitochondrial morphology and function, leading to excess generation of reactive oxygen species and resulting in suppression of prostate cancer cell proliferation, 3D growth, and in vivo tumor growth and metastasis. Supplementation with the monounsaturated fatty acid cis-vaccenic acid, a direct product of ELOVL5 elongation, reversed the oxidative stress and associated cell proliferation and migration effects of ELOVL5 knockdown. Collectively, these results identify lipid elongation as a protumorigenic metabolic pathway in prostate cancer that is androgen-regulated, critical for metastasis, and targetable via ELOVL5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704-1718
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • ELOVL5
  • androgen receptor (AR)
  • androgen-regulated cellular processes
  • prostate cancer


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