Folate metabolism is central to cell proliferation and a target of commonly used cancer chemotherapeutics. In particular, the mitochondrial folate-coupled metabolism is thought to be important for proliferating cancer cells. The enzyme MTHFD2 in this pathway is highly expressed in human tumors and broadly required for survival of cancer cells. Although the enzymatic activity of the MTHFD2 protein is well understood, little is known about its larger role in cancer cell biology. We here report that MTHFD2 is co-expressed with two distinct gene sets, representing amino acid metabolism and cell proliferation, respectively. Consistent with a role for MTHFD2 in cell proliferation, MTHFD2 expression was repressed in cells rendered quiescent by deprivation of growth signals (serum) and rapidly re-induced by serum stimulation. Overexpression of MTHFD2 alone was sufficient to promote cell proliferation independent of its dehydrogenase activity, even during growth restriction. In addition to its known mitochondrial localization, we found MTHFD2 to have a nuclear localization and co-localize with DNA replication sites. These findings suggest a previously unknown role for MTHFD2 in cancer cell proliferation, adding to its known function in mitochondrial folate metabolism.
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