Whether treatment with folic acid (FA) affects human breast cancer positively or negatively remains unclear. We subjected human Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 cells, a human breast cancer cell line, to suboptimal FA at low levels (10 nM; LF) and high levels (50 μM; HF) and investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying their effects through metabolic flux and systematic proteomics analyses. The data indicated that LF induced and HF aggravated 2-fold higher mitochondrial toxicity in terms of suppressed oxidative respiration, increased fermented glycolysis, and enhanced anchorage-independent oncospheroid formation. Quantitative proteomics and Gene Ontology enrichment analysis were used to profile LF- and HF-altered proteins involved in metabolism, apoptosis, and malignancy pathways. Through STRING analysis, we identified a connection network between LF- and HF-altered proteins with mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Rapamycin-induced blockage of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling, which regulates metabolism, differentially inhibited LF- and HF-modulated protein signatures of mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase ubiquinone flavoprotein 2, mitochondrial glutathione peroxidase 4, kynureninase, and alpha-crystallin B chain as well as programmed cell death 5 in transcript levels; it subsequently diminished apoptosis and oncospheroid formation in LF/HF-exposed cells. Taken together, our data indicate that suboptimal FA treatment rewired oncogenic metabolism and mTORC1-mediated proteomics signatures to promote breast cancer development.
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