Asparagine starvation suppresses histone demethylation through iron depletion
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Intracellular α-ketoglutarate is an indispensable substrate for the Jumonji family of histone demethylases (JHDMs) mediating most of the histone demethylation reactions. Since α-ketoglutarate is an intermediate of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and a product of transamination, its availability is governed by the metabolism of several amino acids. Here, we show that asparagine starvation suppresses global histone demethylation. This process is neither due to the change of expression of histone-modifying enzymes nor due to the change of intracellular levels of α-ketoglutarate. Rather, asparagine starvation reduces the intracellular pool of labile iron, a key co-factor for the JHDMs to function. Mechanistically, asparagine starvation suppresses the expression of the transferrin receptor to limit iron uptake. Furthermore, iron supplementation to the culture medium restores histone demethylation and alters gene expression to accelerate cell death upon asparagine depletion. These results suggest that suppressing iron-dependent histone demethylation is part of the cellular adaptive response to asparagine starvation.