Molecular intricacies of aerobic glycolysis in cancer: current insights into the classic metabolic phenotype

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Aerobic glycolysis is the process of oxidation of glucose into pyruvate followed by lactate production under normoxic condition. Distinctive from its anaerobic counterpart (i.e. glycolysis that occurs under hypoxia), aerobic glycolysis is frequently witnessed in cancers, popularly known as the “Warburg effect”, and it is one of the earliest known evidences of metabolic alteration in neoplasms. Intracellularly, aerobic glycolysis circumvents mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos), facilitating an increased rate of glucose hydrolysis. This in turn enables cancer cells to successfully compete with normal cells for glucose uptake in order to maintain uninterrupted growth. In addition, evading OxPhos mitigates excessive generation/accumulation of reactive oxygen species that otherwise may be deleterious to cells. Emerging data indicate that aerobic glycolysis in cancer also promotes glutaminolysis to satisfy the precursor requirements of certain biosynthetic processes (e.g. nucleic acids). Next, the metabolic intermediates of aerobic glycolysis also feed the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) to facilitate macromolecular biosynthesis necessary for cancer cell growth and proliferation. Extracellularly, the extrusion of the end-product of aerobic glycolysis, i.e. lactate, alters the tumor microenvironment, and impacts cancer-associated cells. Collectively, accumulating data unequivocally demonstrate that aerobic glycolysis implicates myriad of molecular and functional processes to support cancer progression. This review, in the light of recent research, dissects the molecular intricacies of its regulation, and also deliberates the emerging paradigms to target aerobic glycolysis in cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-682
Number of pages16
JournalCritical reviews in biochemistry and molecular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2018


  • Aerobic glycolysis
  • Warburg effect
  • lactate pH
  • mitochondrial OxPhos
  • monocarboxylate transporters
  • tumor metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular intricacies of aerobic glycolysis in cancer: current insights into the classic metabolic phenotype'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this