The Warburg effect: a balance of flux analysis
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Cancer metabolism is characterized by increased macromolecular syntheses through coordinated increases in energy and substrate metabolism. The observation that cancer cells produce lactate in an environment of oxygen sufficiency (aerobic glycolysis) is a central theme of cancer metabolism known as the Warburg effect. Aerobic glycolysis in cancer metabolism is accompanied by increased pentose cycle and anaplerotic activities producing energy and substrates for macromolecular synthesis. How these processes are coordinated is poorly understood. Recent advances have focused on molecular regulation of cancer metabolism by oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes which regulate numerous enzymatic steps of central glucose metabolism. In the past decade, new insights in cancer metabolism have emerged through the application of stable isotopes particularly from 13C carbon tracing. Such studies have provided new evidence for system-wide changes in cancer metabolism in response to chemotherapy. Interestingly, experiments using metabolic inhibitors on individual biochemical pathways all demonstrate similar system-wide effects on cancer metabolism as in targeted therapies. Since biochemical reactions in the Warburg effect place competing demands on available precursors, high energy phosphates and reducing equivalents, the cancer metabolic system must fulfill the condition of balance of flux (homeostasis). In this review, the functions of the pentose cycle and of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle in cancer metabolism are analyzed from the balance of flux point of view. Anticancer treatments that target molecular signaling pathways or inhibit metabolism alter the invasive or proliferative behavior of the cancer cells by their effects on the balance of flux (homeostasis) of the cancer metabolic phenotype.
KeywordsMetabolic phenotype Tracer-based metabolomics Metabolic compartments Anaplerosis Energy metabolism
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (P01AT003960) and the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, V.B.P was supported by DK58132-01A2 and NIAID Grant U19AI091175-01.
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Compliance with Ethical Requirements
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.
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