Mitochondrial membrane cholesterol, the voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC), and the Warburg effect
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- Campbell, A.M. & Chan, S.H.P. J Bioenerg Biomembr (2008) 40: 193. doi:10.1007/s10863-008-9138-x
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Normal cells of aerobic organisms synthesize the energy they require in the form of ATP via the process of oxidative phosphorylation. This complex system resides in the mitochondria of cells and utilizes oxygen to produce a majority of cellular ATP. However, in most tumors, especially those with elevated cholesterogenesis, there is an increased reliance on glycolysis for energy, even in conditions where oxygen is available. This aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) has far reaching ramifications on the tumor itself and the cells that surround it. In this brief review, we will discuss how abnormally high membrane cholesterol levels can result in a subsequent deficiency of oxidative energy production in mitochondria from cultured Morris hepatoma cells (MH-7777). We have identified the voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC) as a necessary component of a protein complex involved in mitochondrial membrane cholesterol distribution and transport. Work in our laboratory demonstrates that the ability of VDAC to influence mitochondrial membrane cholesterol distribution may have implications on mitochondrial characteristics such as oxidative phosphorylation and induction of apoptosis, as well as the propensity of cancer cells to exhibit a glycolytic phenotype.