Stress eating and tuning out: Cancer cells re-wire metabolism to counter stress

Zachary E. Stine, Chi V. Dang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancer cells reprogram metabolism to maintain rapid proliferation under often stressful conditions. Glycolysis and glutaminolysis are two central pathways that fuel cancer metabolism. Allosteric regulation and metabolite driven post-translational modifications of key metabolic enzymes allow cancer cells glycolysis and glutaminolysis to respond to changes in nutrient availability and the tumor microenvironment. While increased aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) has been a noted part of cancer metabolism for over 80 years, recent work has shown that the elevated levels of glycolytic intermediates are critical to cancer growth and metabolism due to their ability to feed into the anabolic pathways branching off glycolysis such as the pentose phosphate pathway and serine biosynthesis pathway. The key glycolytic enzymes phosphofructokinase-1 (PFK1), pyruvate kinase (PKM2) and phosphoglycerate mutase 1 (PGAM1) are regulated by upstream and downstream metabolites to balance glycolytic flux with flux through anabolic pathways. Glutamine regulation is tightly controlled by metabolic intermediates that allosterically inhibit and activate glutamate dehydrogenase, which fuels the tricarboxylic acid cycle by converting glutamine derived glutamate to α-ketoglutarate. The elucidation of these key allosteric regulatory hubs in cancer metabolism will be essential for understanding and predicting how cancer cells will respond to drugs that target metabolism. Additionally, identification of the structures involved in allosteric regulation will inform the design of anti-metabolism drugs which bypass the off-target effects of substrate mimics. Hence, this review aims to provide an overview of allosteric control of glycolysis and glutaminolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-619
Number of pages11
JournalCritical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Allosteric
  • Glutamate dehydrogenase
  • Glutaminolysis
  • Glycolysis
  • PFK1
  • PGAM1
  • PKM2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry


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