Haeme-responsive gene (HRG)-1 encodes a 16-kDa transmembrane protein that is induced by insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and associates with the vacuolar-(H(+)) ATPase (V-ATPase). We previously reported that HRG-1 is essential for V-ATPase activity in endosomal acidification and receptor trafficking. Here, we show that in highly invasive and migratory cancer cell lines, HRG-1 and the V-ATPase are co-expressed at the plasma membrane, whereas in less invasive cell lines and non-transformed cells HRG-1 over-expression remains confined to intracellular compartments. Stable suppression of HRG-1 in invasive breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells decreases extracellular pH, cell growth, migration and invasion. Ectopic expression of HRG-1 in non-invasive MCF-7 cells enhances V-ATPase activity, lowers the extracellular pH and increases the pH-dependent activity of MMP2 and MMP9 matrix metalloproteinases. HRG-1 enhances trafficking of the glucose transporter-1 (GLUT-1) with a concomitant increase in glucose uptake and lactate production. HRG-1 also promotes trafficking of the insulin-like growth factor I receptor (IGF-1R), β1-integrin and IGF-1 signalling. Taken together, our findings indicate that HRG-1 expression at the plasma membrane enhances V-ATPase activity, drives glycolytic flux and facilitates cancer cell growth, migration and invasion. Thus, HRG-1 may represent a novel target for selectively disrupting V-ATPase activity and the metastatic potential of cancer cells.
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