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l-glutamine: a major substrate for tumor cells in vivo?


From 65 human breast cancer xenografts investigated, a net glutamine uptake was found in 13 tumors (mean±SE: 15.7±4.5 nmol/g per min) whereas a net release (22.5±3.3 nmol/g per min) was observed in 40 tumors. In 12 tumors neither a significant net uptake nor a net release was obvious. There is experimental evidence that glutamine is taken up by cancer cells only at arterial concentrations>0.5 mM. Another parameter determining glutamine utilization by tumor cells may be the tissue oxygenation. In hypoxic or anoxic tumor areas, glutamine oxidation is unlikely since oxygen is required for the reoxidation of coenzymes which are reduced in the course of this metabolic pathway. The pronounced net release could be due to proteolysis within the tumors investigated. In ascitic fluid (DS-carcinosarcoma), glutamine accumulated during growth, implicating a reduction in the glutamine consumption rate, proposedly also due to a worsening of the oxygen supply to the suspended tumor cells. Thus, the generally held opinion that l-glutamine is a (if not the) major substrate for the energy metabolism of rapidly growing tumor cells should be reconsidered since evidence for this hypothesis has been derived mainly from in vitro system with abundant oxygen.

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Correspondence to P. Vaupel.

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Kallinowski, F., Runkel, S., Fortmeyer, H.P. et al. l-glutamine: a major substrate for tumor cells in vivo?. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 113, 209–215 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00396375

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Key words

  • Glutamine
  • Glutaminolysis
  • Tumor energy metabolism
  • Tumor substrate utilization
  • Tumor oxygenation