Programming a Ferroptosis-to-Apoptosis Transition Landscape Revealed Ferroptosis Biomarkers and Repressors for Cancer Therapy

Yaron Vinik, Avi Maimon, Vinay Dubey, Harsha Raj, Ifat Abramovitch, Sergey Malitsky, Maxim Itkin, Avi Ma'ayan, Frank Westermann, Eyal Gottlieb, Eytan Ruppin, Sima Lev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ferroptosis and apoptosis are key cell-death pathways implicated in several human diseases including cancer. Ferroptosis is driven by iron-dependent lipid peroxidation and currently has no characteristic biomarkers or gene signatures. Here a continuous phenotypic gradient between ferroptosis and apoptosis coupled to transcriptomic and metabolomic landscapes is established. The gradual ferroptosis-to-apoptosis transcriptomic landscape is used to generate a unique, unbiased transcriptomic predictor, the Gradient Gene Set (GGS), which classified ferroptosis and apoptosis with high accuracy. Further GGS optimization using multiple ferroptotic and apoptotic datasets revealed highly specific ferroptosis biomarkers, which are robustly validated in vitro and in vivo. A subset of the GGS is associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer patients and PDXs and contains different ferroptosis repressors. Depletion of one representative, PDGFA-assaociated protein 1(PDAP1), is found to suppress basal-like breast tumor growth in a mouse model. Omics and mechanistic studies revealed that ferroptosis is associated with enhanced lysosomal function, glutaminolysis, and the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, while its transition into apoptosis is attributed to enhanced endoplasmic reticulum(ER)-stress and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE)-to-phosphatidylcholine (PC) metabolic shift. Collectively, this study highlights molecular mechanisms underlying ferroptosis execution, identified a highly predictive ferroptosis gene signature with prognostic value, ferroptosis versus apoptosis biomarkers, and ferroptosis repressors for breast cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvanced Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Israel's Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Merck KGaA
Ministry of Science, Technology and Space
Israel Science Foundation1564/23


    • apoptosis
    • biomarkers
    • breast cancer
    • cancer therapy
    • classification signature
    • ferroptosis
    • TNBC


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