Metabolite profiling of human renal cell carcinoma reveals tissue-origin dominance in nutrient availability

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    eLife assessment

    This study provides an important finding that the local abundance of metabolites impacts the biology of the tumor microenvironment by utilizing kidney tumors from patients and adjacent normal tissues. The evidence supporting the claims of the authors is convincing although certain caveats need to be taken into consideration as the authors acknowledged in the paper. The work will be of interest to the research community working on metabolism and on kidney cancer especially.

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Abstract

The tumor microenvironment is a determinant of cancer progression and therapeutic efficacy, with nutrient availability playing an important role. Although it is established that the local abundance of specific nutrients defines the metabolic parameters for tumor growth, the factors guiding nutrient availability in tumor compared to normal tissue and blood remain poorly understood. To define these factors in renal cell carcinoma (RCC), we performed quantitative metabolomic and comprehensive lipidomic analyses of tumor interstitial fluid (TIF), adjacent normal kidney interstitial fluid (KIF), and plasma samples collected from patients. TIF nutrient composition closely resembles KIF, suggesting that tissue-specific factors unrelated to the presence of cancer exert a stronger influence on nutrient levels than tumor-driven alterations. Notably, select metabolite changes consistent with known features of RCC metabolism are found in RCC TIF, while glucose levels in TIF are not depleted to levels that are lower than those found in KIF. These findings inform tissue nutrient dynamics in RCC, highlighting a dominant role of non-cancer driven tissue factors in shaping nutrient availability in these tumors.

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  1. eLife assessment

    This study provides an important finding that the local abundance of metabolites impacts the biology of the tumor microenvironment by utilizing kidney tumors from patients and adjacent normal tissues. The evidence supporting the claims of the authors is convincing although certain caveats need to be taken into consideration as the authors acknowledged in the paper. The work will be of interest to the research community working on metabolism and on kidney cancer especially.

  2. Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

    Summary:
    The present study addresses how the local abundance of metabolites impacts the biology of the tumor microenvironment. The authors enroll patients harboring kidney tumors and use freshly resected tumor material for metabolic studies. Specifically, the authors separate the adjacent normal kidney tissue from the tumor material and then harvest the interstitial fluid from the normal kidney (KIF) or the tumor (TIF) for quantitative metabolomics. The plasma samples from the patient are used for comparison. Additionally, the authors also compare metabolite levels in the plasma of patients with kidney versus lung cancer (or healthy donors) to address how specific tumor types might contribute to circulating levels of metabolites. Altogether, the authors find that the metabolite levels in the KIF and TIF, although vastly different than plasma, are largely overlapping. These findings indicate that tissue of origin appears to have a stronger role in determining the local metabolic environment of tumors than the genetics or biochemistry of the tumor itself.

    Strengths:
    The biggest strength of the current study is the use of human patient-derived samples. The cohort size (~50 patients) is relatively large, which adds to the rigor of the work. The work also relies on a small pool of metabolites that can be quantitatively measured using methods developed by the authors. Focusing on a smaller metabolic pool also likely increases the signal-to-noise ratio and enables the more rigorous determination of any underlying differences. The manuscript is well-written and highlights both the significance of the findings and also acknowledges many of the caveats. The recognition of the metabolic contributions of surrounding normal tissue as the primary driver of local nutrient abundance is a novel finding in the work, which can be leveraged in future studies.

    Weaknesses:
    The work has certain caveats, some of which have been already recognized by the authors. These include the use of steady-state metabolites and the possibility of cross-contamination of some TIF into the adjacent KIF. This study is also unable to distinguish the mechanisms driving the metabolic changes in KIF/TIF relative to circulating levels in plasma.

    The relative similarity of KIF and TIF is quite surprising. However, this interpretation is presently based on a sampling of only ~100 polar metabolites and ~200 lipid molecules. It is, perhaps, possible that future technological developments that enable more comprehensive quantitative metabolic profiling might distinguish between KIF and TIF composition.

    In vitro, tissue culture is recognized to suffer from 'non-physiological' nutrient dependencies, which are impacted by the composition of culture media. Thus, in vivo studies remain our current gold-standard in mechanistic studies of tumor metabolism. It is presently unclear whether the findings of this work will be recapitulated in any of the kidney cancer in vivo models and thus be functionally testable.

  3. Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

    The study employs quantitative metabolomic and lipidomic analyses to scrutinize tumor interstitial fluid (TIF), adjacent normal kidney interstitial fluid (KIF), and plasma samples from renal cell carcinoma (RCC) patients. The authors delve into the intricate world of renal cell carcinoma and its tumor microenvironment, shedding light on the factors that shape nutrient availability in both cancerous and adjacent normal tissues. The authors prove that non-cancer-driven tissue factors play a dominant role in shaping nutrient availability in RCC. This finding opens up new avenues for research, suggesting that the tumor microenvironment is profoundly influenced by factors beyond the presence of cancer cells. This study not only contributes valuable insights into RCC metabolism but also prompts a reevaluation of the factors governing nutrient availability in tumor microenvironments more broadly. Overall, it represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the intricate interplay between cancer and its surrounding milieu.

    The study is overall well-constructed, including appropriate analysis. Likewise, the manuscript is written clearly and supported by high-quality figures. Since the authors exclusively employed samples from RCC patients and did not include kidney interstitial fluid and plasma samples from healthy individuals, we cannot accurately assess the true significance and applicability of the results until the role of cancer cells in reshaping KIF is understood. In essence, some metabolite levels in the tumor interstitial fluid did not show an increase or decrease compared to the adjacent normal kidney interstitial fluid. However, the levels of these metabolites in both TIF and KIF might be higher or lower than those in kidney interstitial fluid from healthy individuals, and the roles of these metabolites should not be overlooked. Similar concerns extend to plasma levels, emphasizing the importance of metabolites that synchronously change in RCC TIF, KIF, and plasma-whether elevated or reduced.

  4. Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

    In this study, the authors utilized mass spectrometry-based quantification of polar metabolites and lipids in normal and cancerous tissue interstitial fluid and plasma. This showed that nutrient availability in tumor interstitial fluid was similar to that of interstitial fluid in adjacent normal kidney tissue, but that nutrients found in both interstitial fluid compartments were different from those found in plasma. This suggests that the nutrients in kidney tissue differ from those found in blood and that nutrients found in kidney tumors are largely dictated by factors shared with normal kidney tissue. Those data could be useful as a resource to support further study and modeling of the local environment of RCC and normal kidney physiology.

    In Figures 1D and 1E, there were about 30% of polar metabolites and 25% of lipids significantly different between TIF and KIF, which could be key factors for RCC tumors. This reviewer considers that the authors should make comments on this.