Archive for the ‘K’ Category

“Minerals in Medicine” –  40 Minerals that are crucial to Human Health and Biomedicine: Exhibit by NIH Clinical Center and The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Friday, September 9, 2016

NIH Clinical Center and The Smithsonian Institution partner to launch Minerals in Medicine Exhibition


The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, in partnership with The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, will open a special exhibition of more than 40 minerals that are crucial to human health and biomedicine. “Minerals in Medicine” is designed to enthrall and enlighten NIH Clinical Center’s patients, their loved ones, and the NIH community. Media are invited into America’s Research Hospital, the NIH Clinical Center, to experience this unique exhibition during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday September 12 at 4pm.

Beyond taking in the minerals’ arresting beauty, spectators can learn about their important role in keeping the human body healthy, and in enabling the creation of life-saving medicines and cutting edge medical equipment that is used in the NIH Clinical Center and healthcare facilities worldwide. The exhibition, which is on an eighteen-month loan from the National Museum of Natural History, includes specimens that were handpicked from the museum’s vast collection by NIH physicians in partnership with Smithsonian Institution geologists. Some of the minerals on display were obtained regionally as they are part of the Maryland and Virginia landscape.


  • John I. Gallin, M.D., Director of the NIH Clinical Center
  • Jeffrey E. Post, Ph.D., Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Chair of the Department of Mineral Sciences and Curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection


Monday, September 12, 2016, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.


NIH Clinical Center (Building 10), 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20892; 1st Floor near Admissions


RSVP encouraged, but not required, to attend in person. NIH Visitors Map:

About the NIH Clinical Center: The NIH Clinical Center is the clinical research hospital for the National Institutes of Health. Through clinical research, clinician-investigators translate laboratory discoveries into better treatments, therapies and interventions to improve the nation’s health. More information:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit



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Need for Protophysiology?

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator




Comparison of fundamental physical properties of the model cells (protocells) and the living cells reveals the need in protophysiology

V.V. Matveev

International Journal of Astrobiology 2016. pp1-8.

A hypothesis is proposed about potassium ponds being the cradles of life enriches the gamut of ideas about the possible conditions of pre-biological evolution on the primeval Earth, but does not bring us closer to solving the real problem of the origin of life. The gist of the matter lies in the mechanism of making a delimitation between two environments – the intracellular environment and the habitat of protocells. Since the sodium–potassium pump (Na+ /K+-ATPase) was discovered, no molecular model has been proposed for a predecessor of the modern sodium pump. This has brought into life the idea of the potassium pond, wherein protocells would not need a sodium pump. However, current notions of the operation of living cells come into conflict with even physical laws when trying to use them to explain the origin and functioning of protocells. Thus, habitual explanations of the physical properties of living cells have become inapplicable to explain the corresponding properties of Sidney Fox’s microspheres. Likewise, existing approaches to solving the problem of the origin of life do not see the need for the comparative study of living cells and cell models, assemblies of biological and artificial small molecules and macromolecules under physical conditions conducive to the origin of life. The time has come to conduct comprehensive research into the fundamental physical properties of protocells and create a new discipline – protocell physiology or protophysiology – which should bring us much closer to solving the problem of the origin of life.


There is a statement we constantly come across in the scientific and popular-science literature: the ion composition of the internal environment of the body of humans and animals, in which all of its cells are immersed, is close to that of seawater. This observation appeared in the literature even 100 years ago, when it became possible to investigate the ion composition of biological liquids.

This similarity between the internal environment of the body and the sea is quite obvious: in both seawater and blood plasma there are one or two orders of magnitude more Na+ ions than K+. It is this composition that can make one think that life originated in the primeval ocean (the memory of which has since been sustained by the internal environment of the body), and the first cells delineated themselves from seawater using a weakly permeable membrane, so that their internal environment became special, suitable for chemical and physical processes needed to sustain life. Indeed, the ratio of the above cations in the cytoplasm is the exact reverse of their ratio in seawater: there is much more K+ in it than Na+ . In fact, physiological processes can only be possible in an environment where potassium prevails over sodium. Therefore, any theory of the origin of life must explain how such a deep delimitation (distinction) between the two environments could occur: the intracellular environment, wherein vitally important processes take course, and the external environment, which provides the cell with necessary materials and conditions.

For the protocell to separate from seawater, a mechanism must arise that creates and maintains the ion asymmetry between the primeval cell and its environs. We normally consider a mechanism of this kind as the isolating lipid membrane with a molecular ion pump, the Na+/K+ -ATPase, built into it. If life originated in seawater, the origin of the first cell inevitably comes down to the origin of the sodium pump and any structure supporting it – the lipid membrane – without which the work of any pump would make little sense. It seems that life is born in conditions that are really adverse to it and even ruinous.


The great basic question of science: Membrane compartment or non-membrane phase compartment (biophase) is a physical basis for origin of life?

1. If life originated in seawater, the origin of the first cell inevitably comes down to the origin of the sodium pump and any structure supporting it – the lipid membrane – without which the work of any pump would make little sense.

2. Since the sodium-potassium pump (Na+/K+-ATPase) was discovered, no molecular model has been proposed for a predecessor of the modern sodium pump. Neither Miller’s electrical charges, nor Fox’s amino-acid condensation, nor building ready-made biomolecules into coacervates; none of this has managed to lead to the self-origination of the progenitor of the ion pump even in favourable lab conditions.

3. In 2007, we saw the simultaneous release of two articles, in which it was posited that life originated not in seawater as previously thought, but in smaller bodies of water with a K+/Na+ ratio necessary to sustain life. In this conditions sodium pump is not needed and the pump can originate later. But why the pump is needed if K+/Na+ ratio is good? The origin of the sodium pump in conditions where there is no natural need for it may require the agency of Providence.

4. Potassium Big Bang on Earth instead of potassium ponds.

5. Fox’s microspheres do not need potassium ponds.

6. Despite the fact that Fox’s microspheres have no fully functional membrane with sodium pumps and specific ion channels, they generate action potentials similar to that by nerve cells and in addition have ion channels which open and close spontaneously. This ability of the microspheres contradicts to the generally accepted ideas about the mechanism of generation of biological electrical potentials.

7. Hodgkin-Huxley model of action potentials is similarly well-compatible with both the nerve cell and Fox’s microsphere.

8. Biophase as the main subject of protophysiology. In the past they considered the living cell as a non-membrane phase compartment with different physical properties in comparison to the surrounding medium, and this physical difference plays a key role in cell function. According to a new take on an old phase, non-membrane phase compartments play an important role in the functioning of the cell nucleus, nuclear envelope and then of cytoplasm. Somebody sees the compartments even as temporary organelles. According to available data, the phase compartments can play a key role in cell signaling. In this historical context, studies in recent years dedicated to non-membrane phase compartments in the living cells sound sensational.

9. It is essentially a Protocell World which weaves known RNA World, DNA World and Protein World into unity. 10. In the view of non-membrane phase approach, the usage of liposomes and other membrane (non-biophase) cell models to solve the issue of the origin of life is a deadlock way of the investigation. I would be grat

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Implantable Artificial Kidney

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Artificial kidney research gets a boost


“We aim to conduct clinical trials on an implantable, engineered organ in this decade, and we are coordinating our efforts with both the NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Roy said.

Roy is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, and technical director of The Kidney Project at UCSF, a multi-institutional collaboration. The Kidney Project team has prototyped and begun testing key components of the coffee-cup-sized device, which mimics functions of the human kidney.

Roy and Fissell will present updates on development of the device Nov. 3-8 at Kidney Week 2015 in San Diego, part of a major meeting of the American Society of Nephrology.

NIBIB is overseeing and funding the continuation of their work for four years under a cooperative agreement through its Quantum Program, created to support the development of “biomedical technologies that will result in a profound paradigm shift in prevention, detection, diagnosis, and/or treatment of a major disease or national public health problem.” This is the second major grant the researchers have received through the program.

Alternative to dialysis

In part because the U.S. population has grown older and heavier and is more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes, conditions often associated with kidney failure, the number of individuals diagnosed with kidney failure is growing year-over-year and has risen 57 percent since 2000, according to the National Kidney Foundation. More than 615,000 people now are being treated for kidney failure. U.S. government statistics indicate that kidney failure costs the U.S. health care system $40 billion annually and accounts for more than 6 percent of Medicare spending.

The waiting list for kidney transplants in the United States has grown to more than 100,000 people. The number of available kidneys has remained stagnant for the past decade, and only about one in five now on the list is expected to receive a transplant.

More than 430,000 of those with kidney failure now undergo dialysis, which is more costly and less effective than transplantation and typically requires hours-long stays at a clinic, three times weekly. Only about one in three patients who begins dialysis survives longer than five years, in comparison to more than four in five transplant recipients.

Fissell, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt and medical director for The Kidney Project, said, “This project is about creating a permanent solution to the scarcity problem in organ transplantation. We are increasing the options for people with chronic kidney disease who would otherwise be forced onto dialysis.”

Along with Roy at UCSF and Fissell at Vanderbilt, a national team of scientists and engineers at universities and small businesses are working toward making the implantable artificial kidney available to patients.

According to B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, “The grant from NIBIB is a striking affirmation of the promise associated with this device, as well as NIH confidence in the ultimate success of The Kidney Project. Patients with chronic kidney failure are in real need of alternatives to transplant and dialysis; this School of Pharmacy and campus priority clearly demonstrates the research rewards of working collaboratively.”

In September the project was designated for inclusion in the FDA’s new Expedited Access Pathway program to speed development, evaluation, and review of medical devices that meet major unmet needs in fighting life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases. The program evolved from an earlier FDA program called Innovation Pathway 2.0, in which The Kidney Project team was one of three device-development groups selected for a pilot initiative focused on kidney failure. Members of the FDA regulatory staff have continually been in communication with Roy and other project leaders to help guide device testing and criteria for data collection.

The aim of the new program is to speed the FDA’s premarket approval (PMA) process for scientific and regulatory review of safety and effectiveness of Class III medical devices — those with the potential to provide major benefits, but that also might potentially pose major risks.

“The new program brings FDA reviewers, scientists, and leadership together with our team to define a roadmap to regulatory approval and product launch,” Roy said.

Early studies of prototype are encouraging

One component of the new artificial kidney is a silicon nanofilter to remove toxins, salts, some small molecules, and water from the blood. Roy’s research team designed it based on manufacturing methods used in the production of semiconductor electronics and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The new silicon nanofilters offer several advantages — including more uniform pore size — over filters now used in dialysis machines, according to Roy. The silicon nanofilter is designed to function on blood pressure alone and without a pump or electrical power.

The second major component is a “bioreactor” that contains human kidney tubule cells embedded within microscopic scaffolding. These cells perform metabolic functions and reabsorb water from the filtrate to control blood volume. A project collaborator, H. David Humes, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, earlier showed that such a bioreactor, used in combination with ultrafiltration in an external device, greatly increased survival in comparison to dialysis alone in the treatment of patients with acute kidney failure in a hospital intensive care unit.

The artificial kidney being developed by Roy and Fissell is designed to be connected internally to the patient’s blood supply and bladder and implanted near the patient’s own kidneys, which are not removed.

Unlike human kidney transplant recipients, patients with the implantable artificial kidney will not require immunosuppressive therapy, according to Roy. Preliminary preclinical studies indicate that the non-reactive coatings developed for device components are unlikely to lead to filter clogging or immune reactions, he said, and that bioreactor cells can survive for at least 60 days under simulated physiological conditions.

About one-half of the new funding from NIBIB will support lab studies on methods for optimizing performance of the bioreactor’s kidney cells. The remainder will enable refinements for the mechanical design of the nanofilter unit and biocompatibility of the artificial kidney. The filter will be evaluated in preclinical studies aimed at achieving clot-free operation and stable filtration for 30 days.

Private philanthropy and UCSF support already have been vital in sustaining The Kidney Project, and even with the FDA’s new and more flexible pathway, additional funding will be required to meet project timelines, Roy said.

Disclosure: Roy and Fissell have ownership in Silicon Kidney, a start-up company that will advance the commercialization of silicon membrane technology.

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Therapeutic Implications for Targeted Therapy from the Resurgence of Warburg ‘Hypothesis’

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

(Note that each portion of the discussion is followed by a reference)

It is now a time to pause after almost a century of a biological scientific discoveries that have transformed the practice of medicine and impacted the lives of several generations of young minds determined to probe the limits of our knowledge.  In the century that we have entered into the scientific framework of medicine has brought together a difficult to grasp evolution of the emergence of human existence from wars, famine, droughts, storms, infectious diseases, and insect born pestilence with betterment of human lives, only unevenly divided among societal classes that have existed since time immemorial. In this short time span there have emerged several generations of physicians who have benefited from a far better medical education that their forebears could have known. In this expansive volume on cancer, we follow an incomplete and continuing challenge to understand cancer, a disease that has become associated with longer life spans in developed nations.

While there are significant improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, there is still a personal as well as locality factor in the occurrence of this group of diseases, which has been viewed incorrectly as a “dedifferentiation” of mature tissue types and the emergence of a cell phenotype that is dependent on glucose, reverts to a cancer “stem cell type” (loss of stemness), loses cell to cell adhesion, loses orderly maturation, and metastasizes to distant sites. At the same time, physician and nurses are stressed in the care of patients by balancing their daily lives and maintaining a perspective.

The conceptual challenge of cancer diagnosis and management has seemed insurmountable, but owes much to the post World War I activities of Otto Heinrich Warburg. It was Warburg who made the observation that cancer cells metabolize glucose by fermentation in much the way Pasteur 60 years earlier observed fermentation of yeast cells. This metabolic phenomenon occurs even in the presence of an oxygen supply, which would provide a huge deficit in ATP production compared with respiration. The cancer cell is “addicted to glucose” and produced lactic acid. Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this work in 1931.

In the last 15 years there has been a resurgence of work on the Warburg effect that sheds much new light on the process that was not previously possible, with significant therapeutic implications.  In the first place, the metabolic mechanism for the Warburg effect was incomplete even at the beginning of the 21st century.  This has been partly rectified with the enlightening elucidation of genome modifications, cellular metabolic regulation, and signaling pathways.

The following developments have become central to furthering our understanding of malignant transformation.

  1. There is usually an identifiable risk factor, such as, H. pylori, or of a chronic inflammatory state, as in the case of Barrett’s esophagus.
  2. There are certain changes in glucose metabolism that have been unquestionably been found in the evolution of this disease. The changes are associated with major changes in metabolic pathways, miRN signaling, and the metabolism geared to synthesis of cells with an impairment of the cell death cycle. In these changes, mitochondrial function is central to both the impaired respiration and the autophagy geared to the synthesis of cancer cells.

The emergence of this cell prototype is characterized by the following, again related to the Warburg effect:

  1. Cancer cells oxidize a decreased fraction of the pyruvate generated from glycolysis
  2. The mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC), composed of the products of the MPC1 and MPC2 genes, modulates fractional pyruvate oxidation. MPC1 is deleted or underexpressed in multiple cancers and correlates with poor prognosis.
  3. Cancer cells tend to express a partially inhibited splice variant of pyruvate kinase (PK-M2), leading to decreased pyruvate production.
  4. The two proteins that mediate pyruvate conversion to lactate and its export, M-type lactate dehydrogenase and the monocarboxylate transporter MCT-4, are commonly upregulated in cancer cells leading to decreased pyruvate oxidation.
  5. The enzymatic step following mitochondrial entry is the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA by the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) complex. Cancer cells frequently exhibit increased expression of the PDH kinase PDK1, which phosphorylates and inactivates PDH. This PDH regulatory mechanism is required for oncogene induced transformation and reversed in oncogene-induced senescence.
  6. The PDK inhibitor dichloroacetate has shown some clinical efficacy, which correlates with increased pyruvate oxidation. One of the simplest mechanisms to explain decreased mitochondrial pyruvate oxidation in cancer cells, a loss of mitochondrial pyruvate import, has been observed repeatedly over the past 40 years. This process has been impossible to study at a molecular level until recently, however, as the identities of the protein(s) that mediate mitochondrial pyruvate uptake were unknown.
  7. The mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) as a multimeric complex that is necessary for efficient mitochondrial pyruvate uptake. The MPC contains two distinct proteins, MPC1 and MPC2; the absence of either leads to a loss of mitochondrial pyruvate uptake and utilization in yeast, flies, and mammalian cells.

A Role for the Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier as a Repressor of the Warburg Effect and Colon Cancer Cell Growth

John C. Schell, Kristofor A. Olson, Lei Jiang, Amy J. Hawkins, et al.
Molecular Cell Nov 6, 2014; 56: 400–413.

In addition to the above, the following study has therapeutic importance:

Glycolysis has become a target of anticancer strategies. Glucose deprivation is sufficient to induce growth inhibition and cell death in cancer cells. The increased glucose transport in cancer cells has been attributed primarily to the upregulation of glucose transporter 1 (Glut1),  1 of the more than 10 glucose transporters that are responsible for basal glucose transport in almost all cell types. Glut1 has not been targeted until very recently due to the lack of potent and selective inhibitors.

First, Glut1 antibodies were shown to inhibit cancer cell growth. Other Glut1 inhibitors and glucose transport inhibitors, such as fasentin and phloretin, were also shown to be effective in reducing cancer cell growth. A group of inhibitors of glucose transporters has been recently identified with IC50 values lower than 20mmol/L for inhibiting cancer cell growth. However, no animal or detailed mechanism studies have been reported with these inhibitors.

Recently, a small molecule named STF-31 was identified that selectively targets the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) deficient kidney cancer cells. STF-31 inhibits VHL deficient cancer cells by inhibiting Glut1. It was further shown that daily intraperitoneal injection of a soluble analogue of STF-31 effectively reduced the growth of tumors of VHL-deficient cancer cells grafted on nude mice. On the other hand, STF-31 appears to be an inhibitor with a narrow cell target spectrum.

These investigators recently reported the identification of a group of novel small compounds that inhibit basal glucose transport and reduce cancer cell growth by a glucose deprivation–like mechanism. These compounds target Glut1 and are efficacious in vivo as anticancer agents. A novel representative compound WZB117 not only inhibited cell growth in cancer cell lines but also inhibited cancer growth in a nude mouse model. Daily intraperitoneal injection of WZB117 resulted in a more than 70% reduction in the size of human lung cancer of A549 cell origin. Mechanism studies showed that WZB117 inhibited glucose transport in human red blood cells (RBC), which express Glut1 as their sole glucose transporter. Cancer cell treatment with WZB117 led to decreases in levels of Glut1 protein, intracellular ATP, and glycolytic enzymes. All these changes were followed by increase in ATP sensing enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and declines in cyclin E2 as well as phosphorylated retinoblastoma, resulting in cell-cycle arrest, senescence, and necrosis. Addition of extracellular ATP rescued compound-treated cancer cells, suggesting that the reduction of intracellular ATP plays an important role in the anticancer mechanism of the molecule.

A Small-Molecule Inhibitor of Glucose Transporter 1 Downregulates Glycolysis, Induces Cell-Cycle Arrest, and Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth In Vitro and In Vivo

Yi Liu, Yanyan Cao, Weihe Zhang, Stephen Bergmeier, et al.
Mol Cancer Ther Aug 2012; 11(8): 1672–82

Alterations in cellular metabolism are among the most consistent hallmarks of cancer. These investigators have studied the relationship between increased aerobic lactate production and mitochondrial physiology in tumor cells. To diminish the ability of malignant cells to metabolize pyruvate to lactate, M-type lactate dehydrogenase levels were knocked down by means of LDH-A short hairpin RNAs. Reduction in LDH-A activity resulted in stimulation of mitochondrial respiration and decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential. It also compromised the ability of these tumor cells to proliferate under hypoxia. The tumorigenicity of the LDH-A-deficient cells was severely diminished, and this phenotype was reversed by complementation with the human ortholog LDH-A protein. These results demonstrate that LDH-A plays a key role in tumor maintenance.

The results are consistent with a functional connection between alterations in glucose metabolism and mitochondrial physiology in cancer. The data also reflect that the dependency of tumor cells on glucose metabolism is a liability for these cells under limited-oxygen conditions. Interfering with LDH-A activity as a means of blocking pyruvate to lactate conversion could be exploited therapeutically. Because individuals with complete deficiency of LDH-A do not show any symptoms under ordinary circumstances, the genetic data suggest that inhibition of LDH-A activity may represent a relatively nontoxic approach to interfere with tumor growth.

Attenuation of LDH-A expression uncovers a link between glycolysis, mitochondrial physiology, and tumor maintenance

Valeria R. Fantin Julie St-Pierre and Philip Leder
Cancer Cell Jun 2006; 9: 425–434.

The widespread clinical use of positron-emission tomography (PET) for the detection of aerobic glycolysis in tumors and recent findings have rekindled interest in Warburg’s theory. Studies on the physiological changes in malignant conversion provided a metabolic signature for the different stages of tumorigenesis; during tumorigenesis, an increase in glucose uptake and lactate production have been detected. The fully transformed state is most dependent on aerobic glycolysis and least dependent on the mitochondrial machinery for ATP synthesis.

Tumors ferment glucose to lactate even in the presence of oxygen (aerobic glycolysis; Warburg effect). The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) allows glucose conversion to ribose for nucleic acid synthesis and glucose degradation to lactate. The nonoxidative part of the PPP is controlled by transketolase enzyme reactions. We have detected upregulation of a mutated transketolase transcript (TKTL1) in human malignancies, whereas transketolase (TKT) and transketolase-like-2 (TKTL2) transcripts were not upregulated. Strong TKTL1 protein expression was correlated to invasive colon and urothelial tumors and to poor patients outcome. TKTL1 encodes a transketolase with unusual enzymatic properties, which are likely to be caused by the internal deletion of conserved residues. We propose that TKTL1 upregulation in tumors leads to enhanced, oxygen-independent glucose usage and a lactate based matrix degradation. As inhibition of transketolase enzyme reactions suppresses tumor growth and metastasis, TKTL1 could be the relevant target for novel anti-transketolase cancer therapies. We suggest an individualized cancer therapy based on the determination of metabolic changes in tumors that might enable the targeted inhibition of invasion and metastasis.

Other important links between cancer-causing genes and glucose metabolism have been already identified. Activation of the oncogenic kinase Akt has been shown to stimulate glucose uptake and metabolism in cancer cells and renders these cells susceptible to death in response to glucose withdrawal. Such tumor cells have been shown to be dependent on glucose because the ability to induce fatty acid oxidation in response to glucose deprivation is impaired by activated Akt. In addition, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has been identified as a link between glucose metabolism and the cell cycle, thereby implicating p53 as an essential component of metabolic cell-cycle control.

Expression of transketolase TKTL1 predicts colon and urothelial cancer patient survival: Warburg effect reinterpreted

S Langbein, M Zerilli, A zur Hausen, W Staiger, et al.
British Journal of Cancer (2006) 94, 578–585.

The unique metabolic profile of cancer (aerobic glycolysis) might confer apoptosis resistance and be therapeutically targeted. Compared to normal cells, several human cancers have high mitochondrial membrane potential (DJm) and low expression of the K+ channel Kv1.5, both contributing toapoptosis resistance. Dichloroacetate (DCA) inhibits mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK), shifts metabolism from glycolysis to glucose oxidation, decreases DJm, increases mitochondrial H2O2, and activates Kv channels in all cancer, but not normal, cells; DCA upregulates Kv1.5 by an NFAT1-dependent mechanism. DCA induces apoptosis, decreases proliferation, and inhibits tumor growth, without apparent toxicity. Molecular inhibition of PDK2 by siRNA mimics DCA. The mitochondria-NFAT-Kv axis and PDK are important therapeutic targets in cancer; the orally available DCA is a promising selective anticancer agent.

Cancer progression and its resistance to treatment depend, at least in part, on suppression of apoptosis. Although mitochondria are recognized as regulators of apoptosis, their importance as targets for cancer therapy has not been adequately explored or clinically exploited. In 1930, Warburg suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer results in a characteristic metabolic phenotype, that is, aerobic glycolysis (Warburg, 1930). Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging has now confirmed that most malignant tumors have increased glucose uptake and metabolism. This bioenergetic feature is a good marker of cancer but has not been therapeutically pursued..

The small molecule DCA is a metabolic modulator that has been used in humans for decades in the treatment of lactic acidosis and inherited mitochondrial diseases. Without affecting normal cells, DCA reverses the metabolic electrical remodeling that we describe in several cancer lines (hyperpolarized mitochondria, activated NFAT1, downregulated Kv1.5), inducing apoptosis and decreasing tumor growth. DCA in the drinking water at clinically relevant doses for up to 3 months prevents and reverses tumor growth in vivo, without apparent toxicity and without affecting hemoglobin, transaminases, or creatinine levels. The ease of delivery, selectivity, and effectiveness  make DCA an attractive candidate for proapoptotic cancer therapy which can be rapidly translated into phase II–III clinical trials.

A Mitochondria-K+ Channel Axis Is Suppressed in Cancer and Its Normalization Promotes Apoptosis and Inhibits Cancer Growth

Sebastien Bonnet, Stephen L. Archer, Joan Allalunis-Turner, et al.

Cancer Cell Jan 2007; 11: 37–51.

Tumor cells, just as other living cells, possess the potential for proliferation, differentiation, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis. There is a specific metabolic phenotype associated with each of these conditions, characterized by the production of both energy and special substrates necessary for the cells to function in that particular state. Unlike that of normal living cells, the metabolic phenotype of tumor cells supports the proliferative state. Aim: To present the metabolic hypothesis that (1) cell transformation and tumor growth are associated with the activation of metabolic enzymes that increase glucose carbon utilization for nucleic acid synthesis, while enzymes of the lipid and amino acid synthesis pathways are activated in tumor growth inhibition, and (2) phosphorylation and allosteric and transcriptional regulation of intermediary metabolic enzymes and their substrate availability together mediate and sustain cell transformation from one condition to another. Conclusion: Evidence is presented that demonstrates opposite changes in metabolic phenotypes induced by TGF-β, a cell transforming agent, and tumor growth-inhibiting phytochemicals such as genistein and Avemar, or novel synthetic antileukemic drugs such as STI571 (Gleevec).  Intermediary metabolic enzymes that mediate the growth signaling pathways and promote malignant cell transformation may serve as high efficacy nongenetic novel targets for cancer therapies.

A Metabolic Hypothesis of Cell Growth and Death in Pancreatic Cancer

Laszlo G. Boros, Wai-Nang Paul Lee, and Vay Liang W. Go
Pancreas 2002; 24(1):26–33

Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common pathological subtype of kidney cancer. Here, we integrated an unbiased genome-wide RNA interference screen for ccRCC survival regulators with an analysis of recurrently overexpressed genes in ccRCC to identify new therapeutic targets in this disease. One of the most potent survival regulators, the monocarboxylate transporter MCT4 (SLC16A3), impaired ccRCC viability in all eight ccRCC lines tested and was the seventh most overexpressed gene in a meta-analysis of five ccRCC expression datasets.

MCT4 silencing impaired secretion of lactate generated through glycolysis and induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Silencing MCT4 resulted in intracellular acidosis, and reduction in intracellular ATP production together with partial reversion of the Warburg effect in ccRCC cell lines. Intra-tumoral heterogeneity in the intensity of MCT4 protein expression was observed in primary ccRCCs.

MCT4 protein expression analysis based on the highest intensity of expression in primary ccRCCs was associated with poorer relapse-free survival, whereas modal intensity correlated with Fuhrman nuclear grade. Consistent with the potential selection of subclones enriched for MCT4 expression during disease progression, MCT4 expression was greater at sites of metastatic disease. These data suggest that MCT4 may serve as a novel metabolic target to reverse the Warburg effect and limit disease progression in ccRCC.

Clear cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is the commonest subtype of renal cell carcinoma, accounting for 80% of cases. These tumors are highly resistant to cytotoxic chemotherapy and until recently, systemic treatment options for advanced ccRCC were limited to cytokine based therapies, such as interleukin-2 and interferon-α. Recently, anti-angiogenic drugs and mTOR inhibitors, all targeting the HIF–VEGF axis which is activated in up to 91% of ccRCCs through loss of the VHL tumor suppressor gene [1], have been shown to be effective in metastatic ccRCC [2–5]. Although these drugs increase overall survival to more than 2 years [6], resistance invariably occurs, making the identification of new molecular targets a major clinical need to improve outcomes in patients with metastatic ccRCC.

Genome-wide RNA interference analysis of renal carcinoma survival regulators identifies MCT4 as a Warburg effect metabolic target

Marco Gerlinger, Claudio R Santos, Bradley Spencer-Dene, et al.
J Pathol 2012; 227: 146–156

Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) plays a key role in the reprogramming of cancer metabolism by activating transcription of genes encoding glucose transporters and glycolytic enzymes, which take up glucose and convert it to lactate; pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1, which shunts pyruvate away from the mitochondria; and BNIP3, which triggers selective mitochondrial autophagy. The shift from oxidative to glycolytic metabolism allows maintenance of redox homeostasis and cell survival under conditions of prolonged hypoxia. Many metabolic abnormalities in cancer cells increase HIF-1 activity. As a result, a feed-forward mechanism can be activated that drives HIF-1 activation and may promote tumor progression.

Metastatic cancer is characterized by reprogramming of cellular metabolism leading to increased uptake of glucose for use as both an anabolic and a catabolic substrate. Increased glucose uptake is such a reliable feature that it is utilized clinically to detect metastases by positron emission tomography using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) with a sensitivity of >90% [1]. As with all aspects of cancer biology, the details of metabolic reprogramming differ widely among individual tumors. However, the role of specific signaling pathways and transcription factors in this process is now understood in considerable detail. This review will focus on the involvement of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) in both mediating metabolic reprogramming and responding to metabolic alterations. The placement of HIF-1 both upstream and downstream of cancer metabolism results in a feed-forward mechanism that may play a major role in the development of the invasive, metastatic, and lethal cancer phenotype.

O2 concentrations are significantly reduced in many human cancers compared with the surrounding normal tissue. The median PO2 in breast cancers is 10 mmHg, as compared with65 mmHg in normal breast tissue. Reduced O2 availability induces HIF-1, which regulates the transcription of hundreds of genes that encode proteins involved in every aspect of cancer biology, including: cell immortalization and stem cell maintenance; genetic instability; glucose and energy metabolism; vascularization; autocrine growth factor signaling; invasion and metastasis; immune evasion; and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

HIF-1 is a transcription factor that consists of an O2 regulated HIF-1a and a constitutively expressed HIF-1b subunit. In well-oxygenated cells, HIF-1a is hydroxylated on proline residue 402 (Pro-402) and/or Pro-564 by prolyl hydroxylase domain protein 2 (PHD2), which uses O2 and a-ketoglutarate as substrates in a reaction that generates CO2 and succinate as byproducts. Prolylhydroxylated HIF-1a is bound by the von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor protein (VHL), which recruits an E3-ubiquitin ligase that targets HIF-1a for proteasomal degradation (Figure 1a). Asparagine 803 in the transactivation domain is hydroxylated in well-oxygenated cells by factor inhibiting HIF-1 (FIH-1), which blocks the binding of the coactivators p300 and CBP. Under hypoxic conditions, the prolyl and asparaginyl hydroxylation reactions are inhibited by substrate (O2) deprivation and/or the mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which may oxidize Fe(II) present in the catalytic center of the hydroxylases.

The finding that acute changes in PO2 increase mitochondrial ROS production suggests that cellular respiration is optimized at physiological PO2 to limit ROS generation and that any deviation in PO2 – up or down – results in increased ROS generation. If hypoxia persists, induction of HIF-1 leads to adaptive mechanisms to reduce ROS and re-establish homeostasis, as described below. Prolyl and asparaginyl hydroxylation provide a molecular mechanism by which changes in cellular oxygenation can be transduced to the nucleus as changes in HIF-1 activity.

HIF-1: upstream and downstream of cancer metabolism

Gregg L Semenza
Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 2010, 20:51–56

This review comes from a themed issue on Genetic and cellular mechanisms of oncogenesis Edited by Tony Hunter and Richard Marais

Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) regulates the transcription of many genes involved in key aspects of cancer biology, including immortalization, maintenance of stem cell pools, cellular dedifferentiation, genetic instability, vascularization, metabolic reprogramming, autocrine growth factor signaling, invasion/metastasis, and treatment failure. In animal models, HIF-1 overexpression is associated with increased tumor growth, vascularization, and metastasis, whereas HIF-1 loss-of-function has the opposite effect, thus validating HIF-1 as a target. In further support of this conclusion, immunohistochemical detection of HIF-1a overexpression in biopsy sections is a prognostic factor in many cancers. A growing number of novel anticancer agents have been shown to inhibit HIF-1 through a  variety of molecular mechanisms. Determining which combination of drugs to administer to any given patient remains a major obstacle to improving cancer treatment outcomes.

Intratumoral hypoxia The majority of locally advanced solid tumors contain regions of reduced oxygen availability. Intratumoral hypoxia results when cells are located too far from a functional blood vessel for diffusion of adequate amounts of O2 as a result of rapid cancer cell proliferation and the formation of blood vessels that are structurally and functionally abnormal. In the most extreme case, O2 concentrations are below those required for survival, resulting in cell death and establishing a selection for cancer cells in which apoptotic pathways are inactivated, anti-apoptotic pathways are activated, or invasion/metastasis pathways that promote escape from the hypoxic microenvironment are activated. This hypoxic adaptation may arise by alterations in gene expression or by mutations in the genome or both and is associated with reduced patient survival.

Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) The expression of hundreds of genes is altered in each cell exposed to hypoxia. Many of these genes are regulated by HIF-1. HIF-1 is a heterodimer formed by the association of an O2-regulated HIF1a subunit with a constitutively expressed HIF-1b subunit. The structurally and functionally related HIF-2a protein also dimerizes with HIF-1b and regulates an overlapping battery of target genes. Under nonhypoxic conditions, HIF-1a (as well as HIF-2a) is subject to O2-dependent prolyl hydroxylation and this modification is required for binding of the von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor protein (VHL), which also binds to Elongin C and thereby recruits a ubiquitin ligase complex that targets HIF-1a for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Under hypoxic conditions, the rate of hydroxylation and ubiquitination declines, resulting in accumulation of HIF-1a. Immunohistochemical analysis of tumor biopsies has revealed high levels of HIF-1a in hypoxic but viable tumor cells surrounding areas of necrosis.

Genetic alterations in cancer cells increase HIF-1 activity In the majority of clear-cell renal carcinomas, VHL function is lost, resulting in constitutive activation of HIF-1. After re-introduction of functional VHL, renal carcinoma cell lines are no longer tumorigenic, but can be made tumorigenic by expression of HIF2a in which the prolyl residues that are subject to hydroxylation have been mutated. In addition to VHL loss-of-function, many other genetic alterations that inactivate tumor suppressors

Evaluation of HIF-1 inhibitors as anticancer agents

Gregg L. Semenza
Drug Discovery Today Oct 2007; 12(19/20).

Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), which is present at high levels in human tumors, plays crucial roles in tumor promotion by upregulating its target genes, which are involved in anaerobic energy metabolism, angiogenesis, cell survival, cell invasion, and drug resistance. Therefore, it is apparent that the inhibition of HIF-1 activity may be a strategy for treating cancer. Recently, many efforts to develop new HIF-1-targeting agents have been made by both academic and pharmaceutical industry laboratories. The future success of these efforts will be a new class of HIF-1-targeting anticancer agents, which would improve the prognoses of many cancer patients. This review focuses on the potential of HIF-1 as a target molecule for anticancer therapy, and on possible strategies to inhibit HIF-1 activity. In addition, we introduce YC-1 as a new anti-HIF-1, anticancer agent. Although YC-1 was originally developed as a potential therapeutic agent for thrombosis and hypertension, recent studies demonstrated that YC-1 suppressed HIF-1 activity and vascular endothelial growth factor expression in cancer cells. Moreover, it halted tumor growth in immunodeficient mice without serious toxicity during the treatment period. Thus, we propose that YC-1 is a good lead compound for the development of new anti-HIF-1, anticancer agents.

Although many anticancer regimens have been introduced to date, their survival benefits are negligible, which is the reason that a more innovative treatment is required. Basically, the identification of the specific molecular features of tumor promotion has allowed for rational drug discovery in cancer treatment, and drugs have been screened based upon the modulation of specific molecular targets in tumor cells. Target-based drugs should satisfy the following two conditions.

First, they must act by a described mechanism.

Second, they must reduce tumor growth in vivo, associated with this mechanism.

Many key factors have been found to be involved in the multiple steps of cell growth signal-transduction pathways. Targeting these factors offers a strategy for preventing tumor growth; for example, competitors or antibodies blocking ligand–receptor interaction, and receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, downstream pathway inhibitors (i.e., RAS farnesyl transferase inhibitors, mitogen-activated protein kinase and mTOR inhibitors), and cell-cycle arresters (i.e., cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors) could all be used to inhibit tumor growth.

In addition to the intracellular events, tumor environmental factors should be considered to treat solid tumors. Of these, hypoxia is an important cancer-aggravating factor because it contributes to the progression of a more malignant phenotype, and to the acquisition of resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Thus, transcription factors that regulate these hypoxic events are good targets for anticancer therapy and in particular HIF-1 is one of most compelling targets. In this paper, we introduce the roles of HIF-1 in tumor promotion and provide a summary of new anticancer strategies designed to inhibit HIF-1 activity.

New anticancer strategies targeting HIF-1

Eun-Jin Yeo, Yang-Sook Chun, Jong-Wan Park
Biochemical Pharmacology 68 (2004) 1061–1069

Classical work in tumor cell metabolism focused on bioenergetics, particularly enhanced glycolysis and suppressed oxidative phosphorylation (the ‘Warburg effect’). But the biosynthetic activities required to create daughter cells are equally important for tumor growth, and recent studies are now bringing these pathways into focus. In this review, we discuss how tumor cells achieve high rates of nucleotide and fatty acid synthesis, how oncogenes and tumor suppressors influence these activities, and how glutamine metabolism enables macromolecular synthesis in proliferating cells.

Otto Warburg’s demonstration that tumor cells rapidly use glucose and convert the majority of it to lactate is still the most fundamental and enduring observation in tumor metabolism. His work, which ushered in an era of study on tumor metabolism focused on the relationship between glycolysis and cellular bioenergetics, has been revisited and expanded by generations of tumor biologists. It is now accepted that a high rate of glucose metabolism, exploited clinically by 18FDGPET scanning, is a metabolic hallmark of rapidly dividing cells, correlates closely with transformation, and accounts for a significant percentage of ATP generated during cell proliferation. A ‘metabolic transformation’ is required for tumorigenesis. Research over the past few years has reinforced this idea, revealing the conservation of metabolic activities among diverse tumor types, and proving that oncogenic mutations can promote metabolic autonomy by driving nutrient uptake to levels that often exceed those required for cell growth and proliferation.

In order to engage in replicative division, a cell must duplicate its genome, proteins, and lipids and assemble the components into daughter cells; in short, it must become a factory for macromolecular biosynthesis. These activities require that cells take up extracellular nutrients like glucose and glutamine and allocate them into metabolic pathways that convert them into biosynthetic precursors (Figure 1). Tumor cells can achieve this phenotype through changes in the expression of enzymes that determine metabolic flux rates, including nutrient transporters and enzymes [8– 10]. Current studies in tumor metabolism are revealing novel mechanisms for metabolic control, establishing which enzyme isoforms facilitate the tumor metabolic phenotype, and suggesting new targets for cancer therapy.

The ongoing challenge in tumor cell metabolism is to understand how individual pathways fit together into the global metabolic phenotype of cell growth. Here we discuss two biosynthetic activities required by proliferating tumor cells: production of ribose-5 phosphate for nucleotide biosynthesis and production of fatty acids for lipid biosynthesis. Nucleotide and lipid biosynthesis share three important characteristics.

  • First, both use glucose as a carbon source.
  • Second, both consume TCA cycle intermediates, imposing the need for a mechanism to replenish the cycle.
  • Third, both require reductive power in the form of NADPH.

In this Essay, we discuss the possible drivers, advantages, and potential liabilities of the altered metabolism of cancer cells (Figure 1, not shown). Although our emphasis on the Warburg effect reflects the focus of the field, we would also like to encourage a broader approach to the study of cancer metabolism that takes into account the contributions of all interconnected small molecule pathways of the cell.

The Tumor Microenvironment Selects for Altered Metabolism One compelling idea to explain the Warburg effect is that the altered metabolism of cancer cells confers a selective advantage for survival and proliferation in the unique tumor microenvironment. As the early tumor expands, it outgrows the diffusion limits of its local blood supply, leading to hypoxia and stabilization of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor, HIF. HIF initiates a transcriptional program that provides multiple solutions to hypoxic stress (reviewed in Kaelin and Ratcliffe, 2008). Because a decreased dependence on aerobic respiration becomes advantageous, cell metabolism is shifted toward glycolysis by the increased expression of glycolytic enzymes, glucose transporters, and inhibitors of mitochondrial metabolism. In addition, HIF stimulates angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) by upregulating several factors, including most prominently vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Blood vessels recruited to the tumor microenvironment, however, are disorganized, may not deliver blood effectively, and therefore do not completely alleviate hypoxia (reviewed in Gatenby and Gillies, 2004). The oxygen levels within a tumor vary both spatially and temporally, and the resulting rounds of fluctuating oxygen levels potentially select for tumors that constitutively upregulate glycolysis. Interestingly, with the possible exception of tumors that have lost the von Hippel-Lindau protein (VHL), which normally mediates degradation of HIF, HIF is still coupled to oxygen levels, as evident from the heterogeneity of HIF expression within the tumor microenvironment. Therefore, the Warburg effect—that is, an uncoupling of glycolysis from oxygen levels—cannot be explained solely by upregulation of HIF. Other molecular mechanisms are likely to be important, such as the metabolic changes induced by oncogene activation and tumor suppressor loss.

Oncogene Activation Drives Changes in Metabolism Not only may the tumor microenvironment select for a deranged metabolism, but oncogene status can also drive metabolic changes. Since Warburg’s time, the biochemical study of cancer metabolism has been overshadowed by efforts to identify the mutations that contribute to cancer initiation and progression. Recent work, however, has demonstrated that the key components of the Warburg effect—

  • increased glucose consumption,
  • decreased oxidative phosphorylation, and
  • accompanying lactate production—
  • are also distinguishing features of oncogene activation.

The signaling molecule Ras, a powerful oncogene when mutated, promotes glycolysis (reviewed in Dang and Semenza, 1999; Ramanathan et al., 2005). Akt kinase, a well-characterized downstream effector of insulin signaling, reprises its role in glucose uptake and utilization in the cancer setting (reviewed in Manning and Cantley, 2007), whereas the Myc transcription factor upregulates the expression of various metabolic genes (reviewed in Gordan et al., 2007). The most parsimonious route to tumorigenesis may be activation of key oncogenic nodes that execute a proliferative program, of which metabolism may be one important arm. Moreover, regulation of metabolism is not exclusive to oncogenes.

Cancer Cell Metabolism: Warburg & Beyond

Hsu PP & Sabatini DM
Cell  Sep 5, 2008; 134, 703-705

Tumor cells respond to growth signals by the activation of protein kinases, altered gene expression and significant modifications in substrate flow and redistribution among biosynthetic pathways. This results in a proliferating phenotype with altered cellular function. These transformed cells exhibit unique anabolic characteristics, which includes increased and preferential utilization of glucose through the non-oxidative steps of the pentose cycle for nucleic acid synthesis but limited de novo fatty  acid   synthesis   and   TCA   cycle   glucose   oxidation. This  primarily nonoxidative anabolic profile reflects an undifferentiated highly proliferative aneuploid cell phenotype and serves as a reliable metabolic biomarker to determine cell proliferation rate and the level of cell transformation/differentiation in response to drug treatment.

Novel drugs effective in particular cancers exert their anti-proliferative effects by inducing significant reversions of a few specific non-oxidative anabolic pathways. Here we present evidence that cell transformation of various mechanisms is sustained by a unique disproportional substrate distribution between the two branches of the pentose cycle for nucleic acid synthesis, glycolysis and the TCA cycle for fatty acid synthesis and glucose oxidation. This can be demonstrated by the broad labeling and unique specificity of [1,2-13C2]glucose to trace a large number of metabolites in the metabolome. Stable isotope-based dynamic metabolic profiles (SIDMAP) serve the drug discovery process by providing a powerful new tool that integrates the metabolome into a functional genomics approach to developing new drugs. It can be used in screening kinases and their metabolic targets, which can therefore be more efficiently characterized, speeding up and improving drug testing, approval and labeling processes by saving trial and error type study costs in drug testing.

Metabolic Biomarker and Kinase Drug Target Discovery in Cancer Using Stable Isotope-Based Dynamic Metabolic Profiling (SIDMAP)

László G. Boros, Daniel J. Brackett and George G. Harrigan
Current Cancer Drug Targets, 2003, 3, 447-455 447

Pyruvate constitutes a critical branch point in cellular carbon metabolism. We have identified two proteins, Mpc1 and Mpc2, as essential for mitochondrial pyruvate transport in yeast, Drosophila, and humans. Mpc1 and Mpc2 associate to form an ~150 kilodalton complex in the inner mitochondrial membrane. Yeast and Drosophila mutants lacking MPC1 display impaired pyruvate metabolism, with an accumulation of upstream metabolites and a depletion of tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates. Loss of yeast Mpc1 results in defective mitochondrial pyruvate uptake, while silencing of MPC1 or MPC2 in mammalian cells impairs pyruvate oxidation. A point mutation in MPC1 provides resistance to a known inhibitor of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier. Human genetic studies of three families with children suffering from lactic acidosis and hyperpyruvatemia revealed a causal locus that mapped to MPC1, changing single amino acids that are conserved throughout eukaryotes. These data demonstrate that Mpc1 and Mpc2 form an essential part of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier.

A Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier Required for Pyruvate Uptake in Yeast, Drosophila , and Humans

Daniel K. Bricker, Eric B. Taylor, John C. Schell, Thomas Orsak, et al.
Science Express 24 May 2012

Adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR) enzymes convert adenosine (A) to inosine (I) in double-stranded (ds) RNAs. Since Inosine is read as Guanosine, the biological consequence of ADAR enzyme activity is an A/G conversion within RNA molecules. A-to-I editing events can occur on both coding and non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNAs), which are small regulatory RNAs of ~20–23 nucleotides that regulate several cell processes by annealing to target mRNAs and inhibiting their translation. Both miRNA precursors and mature miRNAs undergo A-to-I RNA editing, affecting the miRNA maturation process and activity. ADARs can also edit 3′ UTR of mRNAs, further increasing the interplay between mRNA targets and miRNAs. In this review, we provide a general overview of the ADAR enzymes and their mechanisms of action as well as miRNA processing and function. We then review the more recent findings about the impact of ADAR-mediated activity on the miRNA pathway in terms of biogenesis, target recognition, and gene expression regulation.

Review ADAR Enzyme and miRNA Story: A Nucleotide that Can Make the Difference 

Sara Tomaselli, Barbara Bonamassa, Anna Alisi, Valerio Nobili, Franco Locatelli and Angela Gallo
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 19 Nov 2013; 14, 22796-22816

The fermented wheat germ extract (FWGE) nutraceutical (Avemar™), manufactured under “good manufacturing practice” conditions and, fulfilling the self-affirmed “generally recognized as safe” status in the United States, has been approved as a “dietary food for special medical purposes for cancer patients” in Europe. In this paper, we report the adjuvant use of this nutraceutical in the treatment of high-risk skin melanoma patients. Methods: In a randomized, pilot, phase II clinical trial, the efficacy of dacarbazine (DTIC)-based adjuvant chemotherapy on survival parameters of melanoma patients was compared to that of the same treatment supplemented with a 1-year long administration of FWGE. Results: At the end of an additional 7-year-long follow-up period, log-rank analyses (Kaplan-Meier estimates) showed significant differences in both progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in favor of the FWGE group. Mean PFS: 55.8 months (FWGE group) versus 29.9 months (control group), p  0.0137. Mean OS: 66.2 months (FWGE group) versus 44.7 months (control group), p < 0.0298. Conclusions: The inclusion of Avemar into the adjuvant protocols of high-risk skin melanoma patients is highly recommended.

Adjuvant Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (Avemar™) Nutraceutical Improves Survival of High-Risk Skin Melanoma Patients: A Randomized, Pilot, Phase II Clinical Study with a 7-Year Follow-Up

LV Demidov, LV Manziuk, GY Kharkevitch, NA Pirogova, and EV Artamonova
Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharmaceuticals 2008; 23(4)

Cancer cells possess unique metabolic signatures compared to normal cells, including shifts in aerobic glycolysis, glutaminolysis, and de novo biosynthesis of macromolecules. Targeting these changes with agents (drugs and dietary components) has been employed as strategies to reduce the complications associated with tumorigenesis. This paper highlights the ability of several food components to suppress tumor-specific metabolic pathways, including increased expression of glucose transporters, oncogenic tyrosine kinase, tumor-specific M2-type pyruvate kinase, and fatty acid synthase, and the detection of such effects using various metabonomic technologies, including liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) and stable isotope-labeled MS. Stable isotope-mediated tracing technologies offer exciting opportunities for defining specific target(s) for food components. Exposures, especially during the early transition phase from normal to cancer, are critical for the translation of knowledge about food components into effective prevention strategies. Although appropriate dietary exposures needed to alter cellular metabolism remain inconsistent and/or ill-defined, validated metabonomic biomarkers for dietary components hold promise for establishing effective strategies for cancer prevention.

Bioactive Food Components and Cancer-Specific Metabonomic Profiles

Young S. Kim and John A. Milner
Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2011, Art ID 721213, 9 pages

This reviewer poses the following observation.  The importance of the pyridine nucleotide reduced/oxidized ratio has not been alluded to here, but the importance cannot be understated. It has relevance to the metabolic functions of anabolism and catabolism of the visceral organs.  The importance of this has ties to the pentose monophosphate pathway. The importance of the pyridine nucleotide transhydrogenase reaction remains largely unexplored.  In reference to the NAD-redox state, the observation was made by Nathan O. Kaplan that the organs may be viewed with respect to their primary functions in anabolic or high energy catabolic activities. Thus we find that the endocrine organs are largely tied to anabolic functioning, and to NADP, whereas cardiac and skeletal muscle are highly dependent on NAD. The consequence of this observed phenomenon appears to be related to a difference in the susceptibility to malignant transformation.  In the case of the gastrointestinal tract, the rate of turnover of the epithelium is very high. However, with the exception of the liver, there is no major activity other than cell turnover. In the case of the liver, there is a major commitment to synthesis of lipids, storage of fuel, and synthesis of proteins, which is largely anabolic, but there is also a major activity in detoxification, which is not.  In addition, the liver has a double circulation. As a result, a Zahn infarct is uncommon.  Now we might also consider the heart.  The heart is a muscle syncytium with a high need for oxygen.  Cutting of the oxygen supply makes the myocytes vulnerable to ischemic insult and abberant rhythm abnormalities.  In addition, the cardiomyocyte can take up lactic acid from the circulation for fuel, which is tied to the utilization of lactate from vigorous skeletal muscle activity.  The skeletal muscle is tied to glycolysis in normal function, which has a poor generation of ATP, so that the recycling of excess lactic acid is required by cardiac muscle and hepatocytes.  This has not been a part of the discussion, but this reviewer considers it important to remember in considering the organ-specific tendencies to malignant transformation.

Comment (Aurelian Udristioiu):

Otto Warburg observed that many cancers lose their capacity for mitochondrial respiration, limiting ATP production to anaerobic glycolytic pathways. The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in aggressive malignancies, most of which are also hypoxic [1].
Hypoxia induces a stochastic imbalance between the numbers of reduced mitochondrial species vs. available oxygen, resulting in increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) whose toxicity can lead to apoptotic cell death.
Mechanism involves inhibition of glycolytic ATP production via a Randle-like cycle while increased uncoupling renders cancers unable to produce compensatory ATP from respiration-.generation in the presence of intact tricarboxylic acid (TCA) enzyme.
One mitochondrial adaptation to increased ROS is over-expression of the uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) that has been reported in multiple human cancer cell lines [2-3]. Increased UCP2 expression was also associated with reduced ATP production in malignant oxyphilic mouse leukemia and human lymphoma cell lines [4].
Hypoxia reduces the ability of cells to maintain their energy levels, because less ATP is obtained from glycolysis than from oxidative phosphorylation. Cells adapt to hypoxia by activating the expression of mutant genes in glycolysis.
-Severe hypoxia causes a high mutation rate, resulting in point mutations that may be explained by reduced DNA mismatch repairing activity.
The most direct induction of apoptosis caused by hypoxia is determined by the inhibition of the electron carrier chain from the inner membrane of the mitochondria. The lack of oxygen inhibits the transport of protons and thereby causes a decrease in membrane potential. Cell survival under conditions of mild hypoxia is mediated by phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PIK3) using severe hypoxia or anoxia, and then cells initiate a cascade of events that lead to apoptosis [5].
After DNA damage, a very important regulator of apoptosis is the p53 protein. This tumor suppressor gene has mutations in over 60% of human tumors and acts as a suppressor of cell division. The growth-suppressive effects of p53 are considered to be mediated through the transcriptional trans-activation activity of the protein. In addition to the maturational state of the clonal tumor, the prognosis of patients with CLL is dependent of genetic changes within the neoplastic cell population.

1.Warburg O. On the origin of cancer cells. Science 1956; 123 (3191):309-314
PubMed Abstract ; Publisher Full Text

2.Giardina TM, Steer JH, Lo SZ, Joyce DA. Uncoupling protein-2 accumulates rapidly in the inner mitochondrial membrane during mitochondrial reactive oxygen stress in macrophages. Biochim Biophys Acta 2008, 1777(2):118-129. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text

3. Horimoto M, Resnick MB, Konkin TA, Routhier J, Wands JR, Baffy G. Expression of uncoupling protein-2 in human colon cancer. Clin Cancer Res 2004; 10 (18 Pt1):6203-6207. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text

4. Randle PJ, England PJ, Denton RM. Control of the tricarboxylate cycle and it interactions with glycolysis during acetate utilization in rat heart. Biochem J 1970; 117(4):677-695. PubMed Abstract | PubMed Central Full Text

5. Gillies RJ, Robey I, Gatenby RA. Causes and consequences of increased glucose metabolism of cancers. J Nucl Med 2008; 49(Suppl 2):24S-42S. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text

Shortened version of Comment –

Hypoxia induces a stochastic imbalance between the numbers of reduced mitochondrial species vs. available oxygen, resulting in increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) whose toxicity can lead to apoptotic cell death.
Mechanism involves inhibition of glycolytic ATP production via a Randle-like cycle while increased uncoupling renders cancers unable to produce compensatory ATP from respiration-.generation in the presence of intact tricarboxylic acid (TCA) enzyme.
One mitochondrial adaptation to increased ROS is over-expression of the uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) that has been reported in multiple human cancer cell lines. Increased UCP2 expression was also associated with reduced ATP production in malignant oxyphilic mouse leukemia and human lymphoma cell lines.
Severe hypoxia causes a high mutation rate, resulting in point mutations that may be explained by reduced DNA mismatch repairing activity.

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Summary of Lipid Metabolism


Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Lipid Classification System

The LIPID MAPS Lipid Classification System is comprised of eight lipid categories, each with its own sublassification hierarchy.

Each LMSD record contains an image of the

  • molecular structure,
  • common and systematic names,
  • links to external databases,
  • Wikipedia pages (where available),
  • other annotations and links to structure viewing tools.

All lipids in the LIPID MAPS Structure Database (LMSD) have been classified using this system and have been assigned LIPID MAPS ID’s (LM_ID) which reflects their position in the classification hierarchy.

The LIPID MAPS Structure Database (LMSD) is a relational database encompassing structures and annotations of biologically relevant lipids. As of May 3, 2013, LMSD contains over 37,500 unique lipid structures, making it the largest public lipid-only database in the world. Structures of lipids in the database come from several sources:

  • LIPID MAPS Consortium’s core laboratories and partners;
  • lipids identified by LIPID MAPS experiments;
  • biologically relevant lipids manually curated from LIPID BANK, LIPIDAT, Lipid Library, Cyberlipids, ChEBI and other public sources;
  • novel lipids submitted to peer-reviewed journals;
  • computationally generated structures for appropriate classes.

All the lipid structures in LMSD adhere to the structure drawing rules proposed by the LIPID MAPS consortium. A number of structure viewing options are offered: gif image (default), Chemdraw (requires Chemdraw ActiveX/Plugin), MarvinView (Java applet) and JMol (Java applet).

(as of 10/8/14)

Number of lipids per category

Fatty acyls          5869

Glycerolipids       7541

Glycerophospholipids       8002

Sphingolipids      4338

Sterol lipids         2715

Prenol lipids        1259

Sacccharolipids  1293

Polyketides         6742

TOTAL  37,759 structures


Sud M, Fahy E, Cotter D, Brown A, Dennis EA, Glass CK, Merrill AH Jr, Murphy RC, Raetz CR, Russell DW, Subramaniam S. LMSD: LIPID MAPS structure database Nucleic Acids Research 35: p. D527-32. PMID:17098933 [doi:10.1093/nar/gkl838] PMID: 17098933

Fahy E, Sud M, Cotter D & Subramaniam S. LIPID MAPS online tools for lipid research Nucleic Acids Research (2007) 35: p. W606-12.PMID:17584797 [doi:10.1093/nar/gkm324] PMID: 17584797 

The Recognition of Essential Fatty Acids

Dietary fat has long been recognized as an important source of energy for mammals, but in the late 1920s, researchers demonstrated the dietary requirement for particular fatty acids, which came to be called essential fatty acids. It was not until the advent of intravenous feeding, however, that the importance of essential fatty acids was widely accepted: Clinical signs of essential fatty acid deficiency are generally observed only in patients on total parenteral nutrition who received mixtures devoid of essential fatty acids or in those with malabsorption syndromes.

These signs include dermatitis and changes in visual and neural function. Over the past 40 years, an increasing number of physiological functions, such as immunomodulation, have been attributed to the essential fatty acids and their metabolites, and this area of research remains quite active.1, 2

Fatty Acid Nomenclature

The fat found in foods consists largely of a heterogeneous mixture of triacylglycerols (triglycerides)–glycerol molecules that are each combined with three fatty acids. The fatty acids can be divided into two categories, based on chemical properties: saturated fatty acids, which are usually solid at room temperature, and unsaturated fatty acids, which are liquid at room temperature. The term “saturation” refers to a chemical structure in which each carbon atom in the fatty acyl chain is bound to (saturated with) four other atoms, these carbons are linked by single bonds, and no other atoms or molecules can attach; unsaturated fatty acids contain at least one pair of carbon atoms linked by a double bond, which allows the attachment of additional atoms to those carbons (resulting in saturation). Despite their differences in structure, all fats contain approximately the same amount of energy (37 kilojoules/gram, or 9 kilocalories/gram).

The class of unsaturated fatty acids can be further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids (the primary constituents of olive and canola oils) contain only one double bond. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (the primary constituents of corn, sunflower, flax seed and many other vegetable oils) contain more than one double bond. Fatty acids are often referred to using the number of carbon atoms in the acyl chain, followed by a colon, followed by the number of double bonds in the chain (e.g., 18:1 refers to the 18-carbon monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid; 18:3 refers to any 18-carbon PUFA with three double bonds).

PUFAs are further categorized on the basis of the location of their double bonds. An omega or n notation indicates the number of carbon atoms from the methyl end of the acyl chain to the first double bond. Thus, for example, in the omega-3 (n-3) family of PUFAs, the first double bond is 3 carbons from the methyl end of the molecule.  Finally, PUFAs can be categorized according to their chain length. The 18-carbon n-3 and n-6 short-chain PUFAs are precursors to the longer 20- and 22-carbon PUFAs, called long-chain PUFAs (LCPUFAs).

Fatty Acid Metabolism

Mammalian cells can introduce double bonds into all positions on the fatty acid chain except the n-3 and n-6 position. Thus, the short-chain alpha- linolenic acid (ALA, chemical abbreviation: 18:3n-3) and linoleic acid (LA, chemical abbreviation: 18:2n-6) are essential fatty acids.

No other fatty acids found in food are considered ‘essential’ for humans, because they can all be synthesized from the short chain fatty acids.

Following ingestion, ALA and LA can be converted in the liver to the long chain, more unsaturated n-3 and n-6 LCPUFAs by a complex set of synthetic pathways that share several enzymes (Figure 1). LC PUFAs retain the original sites of desaturation (including n-3 or n-6). The omega-6 fatty acid LA is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3n-6), an omega- 6 fatty acid that is a positional isomer of ALA. GLA, in turn, can be converted to the longerchain omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6). AA is the precursor for certain classes of an important family of hormone- like substances called the eicosanoids (see below).

The omega-3 fatty acid ALA (18:3n-3) can be converted to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n-3). EPA can be elongated to docosapentaenoic acid (DPA 22:5n-3), which is further desaturated to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3). EPA and DHA are also precursors of several classes of eicosanoids and are known to play several other critical roles, some of which are discussed further below.

The conversion from parent fatty acids into the LC PUFAs – EPA, DHA, and AA – appears to occur slowly in humans. In addition, the regulation of conversion is not well understood, although it is known that ALA and LA compete for entry into the metabolic pathways.

Physiological Functions of EPA and AA

As stated earlier, fatty acids play a variety of physiological roles. The specific biological functions of a fatty acid are determined by the number and position of double bonds and the length of the acyl chain.

Both EPA (20:5n-3) and AA (20:4n-6) are precursors for the formation of a family of hormone- like agents called eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are rudimentary hormones or regulating – molecules that appear to occur in most forms of life. However, unlike endocrine hormones, which travel in the blood stream to exert their effects at distant sites, the eicosanoids are autocrine or paracrine factors, which exert their effects locally – in the cells that synthesize them or adjacent cells. Processes affected include the movement of calcium and other substances into and out of cells, relaxation and contraction of muscles, inhibition and promotion of clotting, regulation of secretions including digestive juices and hormones, and control of fertility, cell division, and growth.3

The eicosanoid family includes subgroups of substances known as prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes, among others. As shown in Figure 1.1, the long-chain omega-6 fatty acid, AA (20:4n-6), is the precursor of a group of eicosanoids that include series-2 prostaglandins and series-4 leukotrienes. The omega-3 fatty acid, EPA (20:5n-3), is the precursor to a group of eicosanoids that includes series-3 prostaglandins and series-5 leukotrienes. The AA-derived series-2 prostaglandins and series-4 leukotrienes are often synthesized in response to some emergency such as injury or stress, whereas the EPA-derived series-3 prostaglandins and series-5 leukotrienes appear to modulate the effects of the series-2 prostaglandins and series-4 leukotrienes (usually on the same target cells). More specifically, the series-3 prostaglandins are formed at a slower rate and work to attenuate the effects of excessive levels of series-2 prostaglandins. Thus, adequate production of the series-3 prostaglandins seems to protect against heart attack and stroke as well as certain inflammatory diseases like arthritis, lupus, and asthma.3.

EPA (22:6 n-3) also affects lipoprotein metabolism and decreases the production of substances – including cytokines, interleukin 1ß (IL-1ß), and tumor necrosis factor a (TNF-a) – that have pro-inflammatory effects (such as stimulation of collagenase synthesis and the expression of adhesion molecules necessary for leukocyte extravasation [movement from the circulatory system into tissues]).2 The mechanism responsible for the suppression of cytokine production by omega-3 LC PUFAs remains unknown, although suppression of omega-6-derived eicosanoid production by omega-3 fatty acids may be involved, because the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compete for a common enzyme in the eicosanoid synthetic pathway, delta-6 desaturase.

DPA (22:5n-3) (the elongation product of EPA) and its metabolite DHA (22:6n-3) are frequently referred to as very long chain n-3 fatty acids (VLCFA). Along with AA, DHA is the major PUFA found in the brain and is thought to be important for brain development and function. Recent research has focused on this role and the effect of supplementing infant formula with DHA (since DHA is naturally present in breast milk but not in formula).

Overview of Lipid Catabolism:

The major aspects of lipid metabolism are involved with

  • Fatty Acid Oxidation to produce energy or
  • the synthesis of lipids which is called Lipogenesis.

The metabolism of lipids and carbohydrates are related by the conversion of lipids from carbohydrates. This can be seen in the diagram. Notice the link through actyl-CoA, the seminal discovery of Fritz Lipmann. The metabolism of both is upset by diabetes mellitus, which results in the release of ketones (2/3 betahydroxybutyric acid) into the circulation.


fatty acid metabolism

fatty acid metabolism

The first step in lipid metabolism is the hydrolysis of the lipid in the cytoplasm to produce glycerol and fatty acids.

Since glycerol is a three carbon alcohol, it is metabolized quite readily into an intermediate in glycolysis, dihydroxyacetone phosphate. The last reaction is readily reversible if glycerol is needed for the synthesis of a lipid.

The hydroxyacetone, obtained from glycerol is metabolized into one of two possible compounds. Dihydroxyacetone may be converted into pyruvic acid, a 3-C intermediate at the last step of glycolysis to make energy.

In addition, the dihydroxyacetone may also be used in gluconeogenesis (usually dependent on conversion of gluconeogenic amino acids) to make glucose-6-phosphate for glucose to the blood or glycogen depending upon what is required at that time.

Fatty acids are oxidized to acetyl CoA in the mitochondria using the fatty acid spiral. The acetyl CoA is then ultimately converted into ATP, CO2, and H2O using the citric acid cycle and the electron transport chain.

There are two major types of fatty acids – ω-3 and ω-6.  There are also saturated and unsaturated with respect to the existence of double bonds, and monounsaturated and polyunsatured.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important in long term health, and it will be seen that high cardiovascular risk is most associated with a low ratio of ω-3/ω-6, the denominator being from animal fat. Ω-3 fatty acids are readily available from fish, seaweed, and flax seed. More can be said of this later.

Fatty acids are synthesized from carbohydrates and occasionally from proteins. Actually, the carbohydrates and proteins have first been catabolized into acetyl CoA. Depending upon the energy requirements, the acetyl CoA enters the citric acid cycle or is used to synthesize fatty acids in a process known as LIPOGENESIS.

The relationships between lipid and carbohydrate metabolism are
summarized in Figure 2.

fatty acid spiral


Energy Production Fatty Acid Oxidation:

Visible” ATP:

In the fatty acid spiral, there is only one reaction which directly uses ATP and that is in the initiating step. So this is a loss of ATP and must be subtracted later.

A large amount of energy is released and restored as ATP during the oxidation of fatty acids. The ATP is formed from both the fatty acid spiral and the citric acid cycle. 

Connections to Electron Transport and ATP:

One turn of the fatty acid spiral produces ATP from the interaction of the coenzymes FAD (step 1) and NAD+ (step 3) with the electron transport chain. Total ATP per turn of the fatty acid spiral is:

Electron Transport Diagram – (e.t.c.)

Step 1 – FAD into e.t.c. = 2 ATP
Step 3 – NAD+ into e.t.c. = 3 ATP
Total ATP per turn of spiral = 5 ATP

In order to calculate total ATP from the fatty acid spiral, you must calculate the number of turns that the spiral makes. Remember that the number of turns is found by subtracting one from the number of acetyl CoA produced. See the graphic on the left bottom.

Example with Palmitic Acid = 16 carbons = 8 acetyl groups

Number of turns of fatty acid spiral = 8-1 = 7 turns

ATP from fatty acid spiral = 7 turns and 5 per turn = 35 ATP.

This would be a good time to remember that single ATP that was needed to get the fatty acid spiral started. Therefore subtract it now.

NET ATP from Fatty Acid Spiral = 35 – 1 = 34 ATP

SREBPs: activators of the complete program of cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis in the liver

Jay D. Horton1,2, Joseph L. Goldstein1 and Michael S. Brown1

1Department of Molecular Genetics, and
2Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

J Clin Invest. 2002;109(9):1125–1131.
Lipid homeostasis in vertebrate cells is regulated by a family of membrane-bound transcription factors designated sterol regulatory element–binding proteins (SREBPs). SREBPs directly activate the expression of more than 30 genes dedicated to the synthesis and uptake of cholesterol, fatty acids, triglycerides, and phospholipids, as well as the NADPH cofactor required to synthesize these molecules (14). In the liver, three SREBPs regulate the production of lipids for export into the plasma as lipoproteins and into the bile as micelles. The complex, interdigitated roles of these three SREBPs have been dissected through the study of ten different lines of gene-manipulated mice. These studies form the subject of this review.

SREBPs: activation through proteolytic processing

SREBPs belong to the basic helix-loop-helix–leucine zipper (bHLH-Zip) family of transcription factors, but they differ from other bHLH-Zip proteins in that they are synthesized as inactive precursors bound to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) (1, 5). Each SREBP precursor of about 1150 amino acids is organized into three domains: (a) an NH2-terminal domain of about 480 amino acids that contains the bHLH-Zip region for binding DNA; (b) two hydrophobic transmembrane–spanning segments interrupted by a short loop of about 30 amino acids that projects into the lumen of the ER; and (c) a COOH-terminal domain of about 590 amino acids that performs the essential regulatory function described below.

In order to reach the nucleus and act as a transcription factor, the NH2-terminal domain of each SREBP must be released from the membrane proteolytically (Figure1). Three proteins required for SREBP processing have been delineated in cultured cells, using the tools of somatic cell genetics (see ref. 5for review). One is an escort protein designated SREBP cleavage–activating protein (SCAP). The other two are proteases, designated Site-1 protease (S1P) and Site-2 protease (S2P). Newly synthesized SREBP is inserted into the membranes of the ER, where its COOH-terminal regulatory domain binds to the COOH-terminal domain of SCAP (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Model for the sterol-mediated proteolytic release of SREBPs from membranes JCI0215593.f1

Model for the sterol-mediated proteolytic release of SREBPs from membranes. SCAP is a sensor of sterols and an escort of SREBPs. When cells are depleted of sterols, SCAP transports SREBPs from the ER to the Golgi apparatus, where two proteases, Site-1 protease (S1P) and Site-2 protease (S2P), act sequentially to release the NH2-terminal bHLH-Zip domain from the membrane. The bHLH-Zip domain enters the nucleus and binds to a sterol response element (SRE) in the enhancer/promoter region of target genes, activating their transcription.

SCAP is both an escort for SREBPs and a sensor of sterols. When cells become depleted in cholesterol, SCAP escorts the SREBP from the ER to the Golgi apparatus, where the two proteases reside. In the Golgi apparatus, S1P, a membrane-bound serine protease, cleaves the SREBP in the luminal loop between its two membrane-spanning segments, dividing the SREBP molecule in half. (Fig 1)  The NH2-terminal bHLH-Zip domain is then released from the membrane via a second cleavage mediated by S2P, a membrane-bound zinc metalloproteinase. The NH2-terminal domain, designated nuclear SREBP (nSREBP), translocates to the nucleus, where it activates transcription by binding to nonpalindromic sterol response elements (SREs) in the promoter/enhancer regions of multiple target genes.

SREBPs: two genes, three proteins

The mammalian genome encodes three SREBP isoforms, designated SREBP-1a, SREBP-1c, and SREBP-2.

SREBP-1a is a potent activator of all SREBP-responsive genes, including those that mediate the synthesis of cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides. High-level transcriptional activation is dependent on exon 1a, which encodes a longer acidic transactivation segment than does the first exon of SREBP-1c. The roles of SREBP-1c and SREBP-2 are more restricted than that of SREBP-1a. SREBP-1c preferentially enhances transcription of genes required for fatty acid synthesis but not cholesterol synthesis.

SREBP-1c and SREBP-2 activate three genes required to generate NADPH, which is consumed at multiple stages in these lipid biosynthetic pathways (8) (Figure 2).

major metabolic intermediates in the pathways for synthesis of cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides

major metabolic intermediates in the pathways for synthesis of cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides


A major class of lipids, steroids, have a ring structure of three cyclohexanes and one
cyclopentane in a fused ring system as shown below. There are a variety of functional
groups that may be attached. The main feature, as in all lipids, is the large number of
carbon-hydrogens which make steroids non-polar.

Steroids include such well known compounds as cholesterol, sex hormones, birth
control pills, cortisone, and anabolic steroids.


sex hormones

sex hormones



Adrenocorticoid Hormones

The adrenocorticoid hormones are products of the adrenal glands.

The most important mineralcorticoid is aldosterone, which regulates the
reabsorption of sodium and chloride ions in the kidney tubules and increases
the loss of potassium ions.Aldosterone is secreted when blood sodium ion
levels are too low to cause the kidney to retain sodium ions. If sodium
levels are elevated, aldosterone is not secreted, so that some sodium
will be lost in the urine. Aldosterone also controls swelling in the tissues.

Cortisol, the most important glucocortinoid, has the function of increasing
glucose and glycogen concentrations in the body. These reactions are
completed in the liver by taking fatty acids from lipid storage cells and
amino acids from body proteins to make glucose and glycogen.

In addition, cortisol is elevated in the circulation with cytokine mediated
(IL1, IL1, TNFα) inflammatory reaction, called the systemic inflammatory
response syndrome. Its ketone derivative, cortisone, has the ability
to relieve inflammatory effects. Cortisone or similar synthetic derivatives
such as prednisolone are used to treat inflammatory diseases, rheumatoid
arthritis, and bronchial asthma. There are many side effects with the use
of cortisone drugs, such as bone resorption, so there use must be
monitored carefully.

Hormone Receptors

Steroid hormone receptors are found on the plasma membrane, in the cytosol and also in the nucleus of target cells. They are generally intracellular receptors (typically cytoplasmic) and initiate signal transduction for steroid hormones which lead to changes in gene expression over a time period of hours to days. The best studied steroid hormone receptors are members of the nuclear receptor subfamily 3 (NR3) that include receptors for estrogen (group NR3A)[1] and 3-ketosteroids (group NR3C).[2] In addition to nuclear receptors, several G protein-coupled receptors and ion channels act as cell surface receptors for certain steroid hormones.


Steroid Hormone Receptors and their Response Elements

Steroid hormone receptors are proteins that have a binding site for a particular steroid molecule. Their response elements are DNA sequences that are bound by the complex of the steroid bound to its Steroid receptor.

The response element is part of the promoter of a gene. Binding by the receptor activates or represses, as the case may be, the gene controlled by that promoter.

It is through this mechanism that steroid hormones turn genes on (or off).

steroid hormone receptor

steroid hormone receptor

The glucocorticoid receptor, like all steroid hormone receptors, is a zinc-finger transcription factor; the zinc atoms are the four yellow spheres. Each is attached to four cysteines.

For a steroid hormone to regulate (turn on or off) gene transcription, its receptor must:

  1. bind to the hormone (cortisol in the case of the glucocorticoid receptor)
  2. bind to a second copy of itself to form a homodimer
  3. be in the nucleus, moving from the cytosol if necessary
  4. bind to its response element
  5. bind to other protein cofactors

Each of these functions depend upon a particular region of the protein (e.g., the zinc fingers for binding DNA).

Each of these functions depend upon a particular region of the protein (e.g., the zinc fingers for binding DNA). Mutations in any one region may upset the function of that region without necessarily interfering with other functions of the receptor.

Positive and Negative Response Elements

Some of the hundreds of glucocorticoid response elements in the human genome activate gene transcription when bound by the hormone/receptor complex. Others inhibit gene transcription when bound by the hormone/receptor complex.

Example: When the stress hormone cortisol — bound to its receptor — enters the nucleus of a liver cell, the complex binds to the positive response elements of the many genes needed for gluconeogenesis — the conversion of protein and fat into glucose resulting in a rise in the level of blood sugar.

the negative response element of the insulin receptor gene thus diminishing the ability of the cells to remove glucose from the blood. (This hyperglycemic effect is enhanced by the binding of the cortisol/receptor complex to a negative response element in the beta cells of the pancreas thus reducing the production of insulin.)

Note that every type of cell in the body contains the same response elements in its genome. What determines if a given cell responds to the arrival of a hormone depends on the presence of the hormone’s receptor in the cell.

The Nuclear Receptor Superfamily



 The zinc-finger proteins that serve as receptors for glucocorticoids and progesterone are members of a large family of similar proteins that serve as receptors for a variety of small, hydrophobic molecules. These include:

  1. other steroid hormones like
  2. the mineralocorticoid aldosterone
  3. estrogens
  4. the thyroid hormone, T3
  5. calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D
  6. retinoids: vitamin A (retinol) and its relatives
    1. retinal
    2. retinoic acid (tretinoin — also available as the drug Retin-A®); and its isomer
  7. isotretinoin (sold as Accutane® for the treatment of acne).
  8. bile acids
  9. fatty acids.

These bind members of the superfamily called peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). They got their name from their initial discovery as the receptors for

  • drugs that increase the number and size of peroxisomes in cells.

In every case, the receptors consist of at least

  • three functional modules or domains.

From N-terminal to C-terminal, these are:

  1. a domain needed
  2. the zinc-finger domain needed for DNA binding (to the response element)
  3. the domain responsible for binding the particular hormone as well as the second unit of the dimer.
  4. for the receptor to activate the promoters of the genes being controlled

Schematic diagram of type II zinc finger proteins characteristic of the DNA-binding domain structure of members of the steroid hormone receptor superfamily. Zinc fingers are common features of many transcription factors, allowing proteins to bind to DNA. Each circle represents one amino acid. The CI zinc finger interacts specifically with five base pairs of DNA and determines the DNA sequence recognized by the particular steroid receptor. The three shaded amino acids indicated by the arrows in the knuckle of the CI zinc finger are in the “P box” that allows HRE sequence discrimination between the GR and ERα. The vertically striped aa within the knuckle of the CII zinc finger constitutes the “D box” that is important for dimerization and contacts with the DNA phosphate backbone. Adapted from Tsai M-J, O’Malley BW. Molecular mechanisms of action of steroid/thyroid receptor superfamily members. Annu Rev Biochem 1994;63:451-483; Gronemeyer H. Transcription activation by estrogen and progesterone receptors. Annu Rev Genet 1991;25:89-123.

type II zinc finger proteins

type II zinc finger proteins

Cytoskeleton and Cell Membrane Physiology

Definition and Function

The cytoskeleton is a series of intercellular proteins that help a cell with

  1. shape,
  2. support, and
  3. movement.

Cytoskeleton has three main structural components:

  1. microfilaments,
  2. intermediate filaments, and
  3. movement

The cytoskeleton mediates movement by

  • helping the cell move in its environment and
  • mediating the movement of the cell’s components.

Thereby it provides an important structural framework for the cell –

  • the framework for the movement of organelles, contiguous with the cell membrane, around the cytoplasm. By the activity of
  • the network of protein microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

The structural framework supports cell function as follows:

Cell shape. For cells without cell walls, the cytoskeleton determines the shape of the cell. This is one of the functions of the intermediate filaments.

Cell movement. The dynamic collection of microfilaments and microtubles can be continually in the process of assembly and disassembly, resulting in forces that move the cell. There can also be sliding motions of these structures. Audesirk and Audesirk give examples of white blood cells “crawling” and the migration and shape changes of cells during the development of multicellular organisms.

Organelle movement. Microtubules and microfilaments can help move organelles from place to place in the cell. In endocytosis a vesicle formed engulfs a particle abutting the cell. Microfilaments then attach to the vesicle and pull it into the cell. Much of the complex synthesis and distribution function of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi complex makes use of transport vescicles,  associated with the cytoskeleton.

Cell division. During cell division, microtubules accomplish the movement of the chromosones to the daughter nucleus. Also, a ring of microfilaments helps divide two developing cells by constricting the central region between the cells (fission).

Hickman, et al. Ch 4 Hickman, Cleveland P., Roberts, Larry S., and Larson, Allan, Integrated Principles of Zoology, 9th. Ed., Wm C. Brown, 1995.
Audesirk & Audesirk Ch 6 Audesirk, Teresa and Audesirk, Gerald, Biology, Life on Earth, 5th Ed., Prentice-Hall, 1999.


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Cytoskeleton and Cell Membrane Physiology


Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP




early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

Definition and Function

The cytoskeleton is a series of intercellular proteins that help a cell with

  1. shape,
  2. support, and
  3. movement.

Cytoskeleton has three main structural components:

  1. microfilaments,
  2. intermediate filaments, and
  3. movement

The cytoskeleton mediates movement by

  • helping the cell move in its environment and
  • mediating the movement of the cell’s components.

Thereby it provides an important structural framework for the cell –

  • the framework for the movement of organelles, contiguous with the cell membrane, around the cytoplasm. By the activity of
  • the network of protein microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

The structural framework supports cell function as follows:

Cell shape. For cells without cell walls, the cytoskeleton determines the shape of the cell. This is one of the functions of the intermediate filaments.

Cell movement. The dynamic collection of microfilaments and microtubles can be continually in the process of assembly and disassembly, resulting in forces that move the cell. There can also be sliding motions of these structures. Audesirk and Audesirk give examples of white blood cells “crawling” and the migration and shape changes of cells during the development of multicellular organisms.

Organelle movement. Microtubules and microfilaments can help move organelles from place to place in the cell. In endocytosis a vesicle formed engulfs a particle abutting the cell. Microfilaments then attach to the vesicle and pull it into the cell. Much of the complex synthesis and distribution function of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi complex makes use of transport vescicles,  associated with the cytoskeleton.

Cell division. During cell division, microtubules accomplish the movement of the chromosones to the daughter nucleus. Also, a ring of microfilaments helps divide two developing cells by constricting the central region between the cells (fission).

Hickman, et al. Ch 4 Hickman, Cleveland P., Roberts, Larry S., and Larson, Allan, Integrated Principles of Zoology, 9th. Ed., Wm C. Brown, 1995.
Audesirk & Audesirk Ch 6 Audesirk, Teresa and Audesirk, Gerald, Biology, Life on Earth, 5th Ed., Prentice-Hall, 1999.

Intermediate filaments are 8-12 nanometers in diameter and are twisted together in a cord shape. They are composed of keratin and keratin-like proteins.  These filaments are tough and resist tension.

Microtubules are composed of alpha and beta tubulin that form long, hollow cylinders.  These are fairly strong proteins and are the largest component of cytoskeleton at 25 nanometers. Tubular monomers can be lengthened or shortened from the positive end.

Microtubules have three different functions.

They make up the cell’s

  1. centriole
  2. the flagella and cilia of a cell, and
  3. they serve as “tracks” for transport vesicles to move along.

Key Points 


  1. help the cell resist compression,
  2. provide a track along which vesicles can move throughout the cell, and
  3. are the components of cilia and flagella.

Cilia and flagella are hair-like structures that

  1. assist with locomotion in some cells, as well as
  2. line various structures to trap particles.

The structures of cilia and flagella are a “9+2 array,” meaning that

  • a ring of nine microtubules is surrounded by two more microtubules.

Microtubules attach to replicated chromosomes

  • during cell division and
  • pull them apart to opposite ends of the pole,
  • allowing the cell to divide with a complete set of chromosomes in each daughter cell.

Microtubules are the largest element of the cytoskeleton.

The walls of the microtubule are made of

  • polymerized dimers of α-tubulin and β-tubulin, two globular proteins.

With a diameter of about 25 nm, microtubules are the widest components of the cytoskeleton.

They help the cell

  • resist compression,
  • provide a track along which vesicles move through the cell, and
  • pull replicated chromosomes to opposite ends of a dividing cell.

Like microfilaments, microtubules can dissolve and reform quickly.

Microtubules are also the structural elements of flagella, cilia, and centrioles (the latter are the two perpendicular bodies of the centrosome). In animal cells, the centrosome is the microtubule-organizing center. In eukaryotic cells, flagella and cilia are quite different structurally from their counterparts in prokaryotes.

Intermediate Filaments

Intermediate filaments (IFs) are cytoskeletal components found in animal cells. They are composed of a family of related proteins sharing common structural and sequence features.

epithelial cells

epithelial cells

flagella and cilia share a common structural arrangement of microtubules called a “9 + 2 array.” This is an appropriate name because a single flagellum or cilium is made of a ring of nine microtubule doublets surrounding a single microtubule doublet in the center.

9+2 array

9+2 array

The `Spectraplakins’: cytoskeletal giants with characteristics of both spectrin and plakin families

Katja Röper, Stephen L. Gregory and Nicholas H. Brown
J Cell Sci Nov 15, 2002; 115: 4215-4225​jcs.00157





The sequential endosymbiotic origins of eukaryotes: Compared to bacteria and archaea, the typical eukaryotic cell is much more structurally complex.

While the prokaryotes have a rigid cell wall, the ancestral eukaryote appears to have been wall-less (the walls of plant cells appear to represent a adaptation, and are not homologous to prokaryotic cell walls).

In addition to a nucleus (wherein the cell’s DNA is located, and which we will return to in the next section), there are cytoskeletal structures, including distinctive flagella (quite different from those found in prokaryotes), an active (motile) plasma membrane, capable of engulfing other cells, and multiple internal membrane systems. (A more complete description of cell structure is beyond this version of Biofundamentals).

In aerobic bacteria and cyanobacteria, the electron transport chains associated with ATP synthesis (through either photosynthesis or aerobic respiration) located within the plasma membrane (and in the case of cyanobacteria, internal membrane systems as well).

The same processes (aerobic respiration and photosynthesis) occur within eukaryotic cells. Animals have aerobic respiration, while plants have both).

However, these processes do not occur on the plasma membrane, but rather within distinct cytoplasmic organelles: mitochondria for aerobic respiration and chloroplasts for photosynthesis. All eukaryotic cells have mitochondria, plants (which are eukaryotic) have both mitochondria and chloroplasts.

An intriguing evolutionary question was, are these processes related, that is, are the processes of aerobic respiration and photosynthesis found in eukaryotes homologous to the processes found in bacteria and cyanobacteria, or did they originate independently.

The path to understanding that homologous nature of these processes began with studies of cell structure.

spectrin protein superfamily.large

spectrin protein superfamily.large

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

Focal Adhesions: Transmembrane Junctions Between the Extracellular Matrix and the Cytoskeleton

K Burridge, K Fath, T Kelly, G Nuckolls, and C Turner
Ann Rev Cell Biol Nov 1988; 4: 487-525

the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that

  • provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.[1]

Because multicellularity evolved independently in different multicellular lineages, the composition of ECM varies between multicellular structures; however,

  • cell adhesion,
  • cell-to-cell communication and
  • differentiation

are common functions of the ECM.[2]

The animal extracellular matrix includes

  • the interstitial matrix and
  • the basement membrane.[3]

Interstitial matrix is present between various animal cells (i.e., in the intercellular spaces).

Gels of polysaccharides and fibrous proteins

  • fill the interstitial space and act as
  • a compression buffer against the stress placed on the ECM.[4]

Basement membranes are sheet-like depositions of ECM on which various epithelial cells rest.

The Extracellular Matrix (ECM)

Mechanical support to tissues

Organization of cells into tissues

  1. Activation of signaling pathways (cell growth, proliferation; development); examples:
  2. TGF-β, integrins
  3. specialized roles (tendon, bone; cartilage; cell movement during development; basal lamina in epithelia)


  1. proteoglycans
  2. collagen fibers (mechanical strength)
  3. multiadhesive matrix proteins (linking cell surface receptors to the (ECM)

Integrin connects the extracellular matrix with the actin cytoskeleton inside the cell

Fibronectin Integrin

Fibronectin Integrin

Continuous membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion requires continuous accommodation to lipid and cytoskeleton dynamics.

Sheetz MP, Sable JE, Döbereiner HG.
Annu Rev Biophys Struct Biomol. 2006;35:417-34.

The plasma membrane of most animal cells conforms to the cytoskeleton and only occasionally separates to form blebs. Previous studies indicated that

  • many weak interactions between cytoskeleton and the lipid bilayer
  • kept the surfaces together to counteract the normal outward pressure of cytoplasm.

Either the loss of adhesion strength or the formation of gaps in the cytoskeleton enables the pressure to form blebs. Membrane-associated cytoskeleton proteins, such as spectrin and filamin, can

  • control the movement and aggregation of membrane proteins and lipids,
    e.g., phosphoinositol phospholipids (PIPs), as well as blebbing.

At the same time, lipids (particularly PIPs) and membrane proteins affect

  • cytoskeleton and signaling dynamics.

We consider here the roles of the major phosphatidylinositol-4,5-diphosphate (PIP2) binding protein, MARCKS, and PIP2 levels in controlling cytoskeleton dynamics. Further understanding of dynamics will provide important clues about how membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion rapidly adjusts to cytoskeleton and membrane dynamics.

Interaction of membrane/lipid rafts with the cytoskeleton: impact on signaling and function: membrane/lipid rafts, mediators of cytoskeletal arrangement and cell signaling.

Head BP, Patel HH, Insel PA   Epub 2013 Jul 27.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Feb;1838(2):532-45.

The plasma membrane in eukaryotic cells contains microdomains that are

  • enriched in certain glycosphingolipids, gangliosides, and sterols (such as cholesterol) to form membrane/lipid rafts (MLR).

These regions exist as caveolae, morphologically observable flask-like invaginations, or as a less easily detectable planar form. MLR are scaffolds for many molecular entities, including

  • signaling receptors and ion channels that
  • communicate extracellular stimuli to the intracellular milieu.

Much evidence indicates that this organization and/or the clustering of MLR into more active signaling platforms

  • depends upon interactions with and dynamic rearrangement of the cytoskeleton.

Several cytoskeletal components and binding partners, as well as enzymes that regulate the cytoskeleton, localize to MLR and help

  • regulate lateral diffusion of membrane proteins and lipids in response to extracellular events
    (e.g., receptor activation, shear stress, electrical conductance, and nutrient demand).

MLR regulate

  • cellular polarity,
  • adherence to the extracellular matrix,
  • signaling events (including ones that affect growth and migration), and
  • are sites of cellular entry of certain pathogens, toxins and nanoparticles.

The dynamic interaction between MLR and the underlying cytoskeleton thus regulates many facets of the function of eukaryotic cells and their adaptation to changing environments. Here, we review general features of MLR and caveolae and their role in several aspects of cellular function, including

  • polarity of endothelial and epithelial cells,
  • cell migration,
  • mechanotransduction,
  • lymphocyte activation,
  • neuronal growth and signaling, and
  • a variety of disease settings.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Reciprocal influences between cell cytoskeleton and membrane channels, receptors and transporters. Guest Editor: Jean Claude Hervé.

Cell control by membrane–cytoskeleton adhesion

Michael P. Sheetz
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 2, 392-396 (May 2001) | http://dx.doi.doi:/10.1038/35073095

The rates of mechanochemical processes, such as endocytosis, membrane extension and membrane resealing after cell wounding, are known to be controlled biochemically, through interaction with regulatory proteins. Here, I propose that these rates are also controlled physically, through an apparently continuous adhesion between plasma membrane lipids and cytoskeletal proteins.

Lipid Rafts, Signalling and the Cytoskeleton

Lipid rafts are specialised membrane domains enriched in certain lipids cholesterol and proteins. The existence of lipid rafts was first hypothesised in 1988 (Simons & van Meer, 1988; Simon & Ikonen, 1997), but what we know as “caveolae” were first observed  much earlier (Palade, 1953; Yamada, 1955).  Caveolae are flask shaped invaginations on the cell surface that are a type of membrane raft, these were named “caveolae intracellulare” (Yamada, 1955).  After a long argument (Jacobson & Dietrich, 1999), most now consider that these rafts actually exist, however, there is some confusion surrounding the classification of these rafts. It presently seems that there could be three types; caveolae, glycosphingolipid enriched membranes (GEM), and polyphospho inositol rich rafts. It may also be that there are inside rafts (PIP2 rich and caveolae) and outside rafts (GEM).

The fatty-acid chains of lipids within the rafts tend to be extended and so more tightly packed, creating domains with higher order. It is therefore thought that  rafts exist in a separate ordered phase that floats in a sea of poorly ordered lipids.  Glycosphingolipids, and other lipids with long, straight acyl chains are preferentially incorporated into the rafts.

Caveolae are similar in composition to GEMs that lack caveolae and in fact cells that lack caveolin-1 do not have morphologically identifiable caveolae but instead have extra GEM.  These cells can then be transfected with caveolin-1 cDNA and the caveolae then appear.  This suggests that GEM are merely caveolae without caveolin-1.  Caveolin-1 is a 21kDa integral membrane protein that binds cholesterol (Maruta et al, 1995). In cells lacking caveolin-1, caveolin-2 is synthesised but remains in the Golgi.  Caveolin 1 and 2 colocalise when expressed in the same cells and they may form hetero-dimers (Scherer et al, 1997). Caveolin-3 is expressed in muscle where it forms muscle-type caveolae.  Caveolin-3 is involved in certain types of muscular dystrophy (Galbiati et al, ). A slightly confusing finding is that caveolae are the reported site of integrin signalling ().  It is difficult to imagine integrins being available in the depths of membrane invaginations for binding extra-cellular ligands.

The function of rafts

Many functions have been attributed to rafts, from cholesterol transport, endocytosis and signal transduction.  The later is almost certainly the case. It has been suggested that the primary function of caveolae was in constitutive endocytic trafficking but recent data show that this is not the case, instead caveolae are very stable regions of membranes that are not involved in  endocytosis (Thompsen et al, 2002).

lipid raft

lipid raft

Rafts and the Cytoskeleton

Many actin binding proteins are known to bind to polyphosphoinositides and to be regulated by them (see PI and ABPs), by a series of protein domains such as PH, PX and ENTH (see Domains).  It is consequently scarcely surprising that some ABPs are suggested to link the actin cytoskeleton and PIP2-enriched rafts. One of these is gelsolin, a Ca2+, pH and polyphosphoinositide regulated actin capping and severing protein (see Gelsolin Family), that partitions into rafts isolated biochemically from brain (Fanatsu et al, 2000).

GEMs too are suggested to link to the actin cytoskeleton through ABPs particularly ERM proteins through EBP50, a protein that binds members of the ERM proteins through the ERM C-terminus (Brdickova et al, 2001).


Brdickova, N., Brdicka, T., Andrea, L., Spicka, J., Angelisova, P., Milgram, S. L. & Horejsi, V. (2001) Interaction between two adaptor proteins, PAG and EBP50: a possible link between membrane rafts and actin cytoskeleton.  FEBS letters. 507, 133-136.

Cary, L. A. & Cooper, J. A. (2000) Molecular switches in lipid rafts.  Nature. 404, 945-947.

Czarny, M., Fiucci, G., Lavie, Y., Banno, Y., Nozawa, Y. & Liscovitch, M. (2000) Phospholipase D2: functional interaction with caveolin in low-density membrane microdomains.,  FEBS letters.

Foger, N., Funatsu, N., Kumanogoh, H., Sokawa, Y. & Maekawa, S. (2000) Identification of gelsolin as an actin regulatory component in a Triton insoluble low density fraction (raft) of newborn bovine brain.  Neuroscience Research. 36, 311-317.

Galbiati, F., Engelman, J. A., Volonte, D., Zhang, X. L., Minetti, C., Li, M., Hou jr, H., Kneitz, B., Edelman, W. & Lisanti, M. P. (2001) Caveolin-3 null mice show a loss of caveolae, changes in the microdomain distribution of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, and T-tubule abnormalities.  J. Biol.Chem. 276, 21425-21433.

…  (more)

centralpore-small  Gating and Ion Conductivity

centralpore-small Gating and Ion Conductivity

Interaction of epithelial ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton.

Mazzochi C, Benos DJ, Smith PR.
Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2006 Dec;291(6):F1113-22. Epub 2006 Aug 22

The interaction of ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton in epithelial cells

  • not only maintains the polarized expression of ion channels within specific membrane domains,
  • it also functions in the intracellular trafficking and regulation of channel activity.

Initial evidence supporting an interaction between

  • epithelial ion channels and the
  • actin-based cytoskeleton

came from patch-clamp studies of the effects of cytochalasins on channel activity. Cytochalasins were shown to

  • either activate or inactivate epithelial ion channels.

An interaction between

  • the actin-based cytoskeleton and epithelial ion channels

was further supported by the fact that the addition of monomeric or filamentous actin to excised patches had an effect on channel activity comparable to that of cytochalasins. Through the recent application of molecular and proteomic approaches, we now know that

  • the interactions between epithelial ion channels and actin can either be direct or indirect,
  • the latter being mediated through scaffolding or actin-binding proteins
  • that serve as links between the channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton.

This review discusses recent advances in our understanding of the interactions between epithelial ion channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton, and the roles these interactions play in regulating the cell surface expression, activity, and intracellular trafficking of epithelial ion channels.

epithelial ion channels

epithelial ion channels

Actin cytoskeleton regulates ion channel activity in retinal neurons.

Maguire G, Connaughton V, Prat AG, Jackson GR Jr, Cantiello HF.
Neuroreport. 1998 Mar 9;9(4):665-70

The actin cytoskeleton is an important contributor to the integrity of cellular shape and responses in neurons. However, the molecular mechanisms associated with functional interactions between the actin cytoskeleton and neuronal ion channels are largely unknown. Whole-cell and single channel recording techniques were thus applied to identified retinal bipolar neurons of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) to assess the role of acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics in the regulation of voltage-gated ion channels. Disruption of endogenous actin filaments after brief treatment (20-30 min) with cytochalasin D (CD) activated voltage-gated K+ currents in bipolar cells, which were largely prevented by intracellular perfusion with the actin filament-stabilizer agent, phalloidin. Either CD treatment under cell-attached conditions or direct addition of actin to excised, inside-out patches of bipolar cells activated and/or increased single K+ channels. Thus, acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics regulate voltage-gated ion channel activity in bipolar cells.

Cytoskeletal Basis of Ion Channel Function in Cardiac Muscle

Matteo Vatta, Ph.D1,2 and Georgine Faulkner, Ph.D3

The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Future Cardiol

The heart is a force-generating organ that responds to self-generated electrical stimuli from specialized cardiomyocytes. This function is modulated by sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

In order to contract and accommodate the repetitive morphological changes induced by the cardiac cycle,

  • cardiomyocytes depend on their highly evolved and specialized cytoskeletal apparatus.

Defects in components of the cytoskeleton, in the long term, affect

  • the ability of the cell to compensate at
  • both functional and structural levels.

In addition to the structural remodeling, the myocardium becomes

  • increasingly susceptible to altered electrical activity leading to arrhythmogenesis.

The development of arrhythmias secondary to structural remodeling defects has been noted, although the detailed molecular mechanisms are still elusive. Here I will review the current knowledge of the molecular and functional relationships between the cytoskeleton and ion channels and, I will discuss the future impact of new data on molecular cardiology research and clinical practice. 

Stretch-activated ion channel

Stretch-activated or stretch-gated ion channels are

  • ion channels which open their pores in response to
  • mechanical deformation of a neuron’s plasma membrane.

[Also see mechanosensitive ion channels and mechanosensitive channels, with which they may be synonymous]. Opening of the ion channels

  • depolarizes the afferent neuron producing an action potential with sufficient depolarization.[1]

Channels open in response to two different mechanisms: the prokaryotic model and the mammalian hair cell model.[2][3] Stretch-activated ion channels have been shown to detect vibration, pressure, stretch, touch, sounds, tastes, smell, heat, volume, and vision.[4][5][6] Stretch-activated ion channels have been categorized into

three distinct “superfamilies”:

  1. the ENaC/DEG family,
  2. the TRP family, and
  3. the K1 selective family.

These channels are involved with bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation.[7] They are shown to be associated with many cardiovascular diseases.[3] Stretch-activated channels were first observed in chick skeletal muscles by Falguni Guharay and Frederick Sachs in 1983 and the results were published in 1984.[8] Since then stretch-activated channels have been found in cells from bacteria to humans as well as plants.

Mechanosensitivity of cell membranes. Ion channels, lipid matrix and cytoskeleton.

Petrov AG, Usherwood PN.
Eur Biophys J. 1994;23(1):1-19

Physical and biophysical mechanisms of mechano-sensitivity of cell membranes are reviewed. The possible roles of

  • the lipid matrix and of
  • the cytoskeleton in membrane mechanoreception

are discussed. Techniques for generation of static strains and dynamic curvatures of membrane patches are considered. A unified model for

  • stress-activated and stress-inactivated ion channels

under static strains is described. A review of work on

  • stress-sensitive pores in lipid-peptide model membranes

is presented. The possible role of flexoelectricity in mechano-electric transduction, e.g. in auditory receptors is discussed. Studies of

  • flexoelectricity in model lipid membranes, lipid-peptide membranes and natural membranes containing ion channels

are reviewed. Finally, possible applications in molecular electronics of mechanosensors employing some of the recognized principles of mechano-electric transduction in natural membranes are discussed.Marhaba, R. & Zoller, M. (2001) Involvement of CD44 in cytoskeleton rearrangement and raft reorganization in T cells.  J.Cell Sci. 114, 1169-1178.

FIGURE 2 | The transient pore model.

peroxisomal matrix protein

peroxisomal matrix protein

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model
The transient pore model

The peroxisomal import receptor peroxin-5 (Pex5) recognizes peroxisomal targeting signal-1 (PTS1)-containing cargo proteins in the cytosol. It then moves to the peroxisome where it inserts into the peroxisomal membrane to become an integral part of the protein-import apparatus. Pex14 and/or Pex13, which are associated with Pex17, are proposed to be involved in tethering the receptor to the membrane and in the assembly, stabilization and rearrangement of the translocon. Cargo release into the peroxisomal matrix is thought to be initiated by intraperoxisomal factors — for example, the competitive binding of the intraperoxisomal Pex8, which also has a PTS1. The disassembly and recycling of Pex5 is triggered by a cascade of protein–protein interactions at the peroxisomal membrane that results in the Pex1-, Pex6-driven, ATP-dependent dislocation of Pex5 from the peroxisomal membrane to the cytosol. Pex1 and Pex6 are AAA+ (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities) peroxins that are associated with the peroxisome membrane through Pex15 in yeast or its orthologue PEX26 in mammals. Pex4, which is membrane-anchored through Pex22, is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, and Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12 contain the RING-finger motif that is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases. Mono- or di-ubiquitylation are reversible steps that seem to be required for the efficient recycling of import receptors, whereas polyubiquitylation might signal the proteasome-dependent degradation of receptors when the physiological dislocation of receptors is blocked. Ub, ubiquitin.

Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005) |


peroxisomal protein pore model

peroxisomal protein pore model

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Peroxin-13 (Pex13), Pex14 and Pex17 are constituents of the docking complex for cycling peroxisomal import receptors. Another protein assembly in the peroxisomal membrane comprises the RING-finger-motif-containing peroxins Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12. This motif is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases, and this subcomplex is linked to the docking complex by Pex8, which is peripherally attached to the lumenal side of the peroxisomal membrane. Pex4 is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes and is anchored to the peroxisomal membrane through the cytosolic domain of Pex22. Pex1 and Pex6 are interacting AAA+ proteins (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities), which are attached to the membrane through binding to Pex15 in yeast or to its mammalian counterpart PEX26.

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs

Peroxisomes import folded, even oligomeric, proteins, which distinguishes the peroxisomal translocation machinery from the well-characterized translocons of other organelles. How proteins are transported across the peroxisomal membrane is unclear. Here, we propose a mechanistic model that conceptually divides the import process into three consecutive steps: the formation of a

  • translocation pore by the import receptor,
  • the ubiquitylation of the import receptors, and
  • pore disassembly/receptor recycling.


Masoud Naderi Maralani

Identification of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway leading to odd-numbered fatty acids

The long-chain base ​phytosphingosine is a component of sphingolipids and exists in yeast, plants and some mammalian tissues. ​Phytosphingosine is unique in that it possesses an additional hydroxyl group compared with other long-chain bases. However, its metabolism is unknown. Here we show that ​phytosphingosine is metabolized to odd-numbered fatty acids and is incorporated into glycerophospholipids both in yeast and mammalian cells. Disruption of the yeast gene encoding long-chain base 1-phosphate lyase, which catalyzes the committed step in the metabolism of ​phytosphingosine to glycerophospholipids, causes an ~40% reduction in the level of phosphatidylcholines that contain a C15 fatty acid. We also find that ​2-hydroxypalmitic acid is an intermediate of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway. Furthermore, we show that the yeast ​MPO1 gene, whose product belongs to a large, conserved protein family of unknown function, is involved in ​phytosphingosine metabolism. Our findings provide insights into fatty acid diversity and identify a pathway by which hydroxyl group-containing lipids are metabolized.

About GPCRs

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a class of membrane proteins that allow the transmission of a wide variety of signals over the cell membrane, between different cells and over long distances inside the body. The molecular mechanisms of action of GPCRs were worked in great detail by Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2012. Read More

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Pentose Shunt, Electron Transfer, Galactose, more Lipids in brief

Pentose Shunt, Electron Transfer, Galactose, more Lipids in brief

Reviewer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Pentose Shunt, Electron Transfer, Galactose, and other Lipids in brief

This is a continuation of the series of articles that spans the horizon of the genetic
code and the progression in complexity from genomics to proteomics, which must
be completed before proceeding to metabolomics and multi-omics.  At this point
we have covered genomics, transcriptomics, signaling, and carbohydrate metabolism
with considerable detail.In carbohydrates. There are two topics that need some attention –
(1) pentose phosphate shunt;
(2) H+ transfer
(3) galactose.
(4) more lipids
Then we are to move on to proteins and proteomics.

Summary of this series:

The outline of what I am presenting in series is as follows:

  1. Signaling and Signaling Pathways
  2. Signaling transduction tutorial.
  3. Carbohydrate metabolism

Selected References to Signaling and Metabolic Pathways published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal, include the following:

  1. Lipid metabolism

4.1  Studies of respiration lead to Acetyl CoA

4.2 The multi-step transfer of phosphate bond and hydrogen exchange energy

5.Pentose shunt, electron transfers, galactose, and other lipids in brief

6. Protein synthesis and degradation

7.  Subcellular structure

8. Impairments in pathological states: endocrine disorders; stress
hypermetabolism; cancer.

Section I. Pentose Shunt

Bernard L. Horecker’s Contributions to Elucidating the Pentose Phosphate Pathway

Nicole Kresge,     Robert D. Simoni and     Robert L. Hill

The Enzymatic Conversion of 6-Phosphogluconate to Ribulose-5-Phosphate
and Ribose-5-Phosphate (Horecker, B. L., Smyrniotis, P. Z., and Seegmiller,
J. E.      J. Biol. Chem. 1951; 193: 383–396

Bernard Horecker

Bernard Leonard Horecker (1914) began his training in enzymology in 1936 as a
graduate student at the University of Chicago in the laboratory of T. R. Hogness.
His initial project involved studying succinic dehydrogenase from beef heart using
the Warburg manometric apparatus. However, when Erwin Hass arrived from Otto
Warburg’s laboratory he asked Horecker to join him in the search for an enzyme
that would catalyze the reduction of cytochrome c by reduced NADP. This marked
the beginning of Horecker’s lifelong involvement with the pentose phosphate pathway.

During World War II, Horecker left Chicago and got a job at the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) in Frederick S. Brackett’s laboratory in the Division of Industrial Hygiene.
As part of the wartime effort, Horecker was assigned the task of developing a method
to determine the carbon monoxide hemoglobin content of the blood of Navy pilots
returning from combat missions. When the war ended, Horecker returned to research
in enzymology and began studying the reduction of cytochrome c by the succinic
dehydrogenase system.

Shortly after he began these investigation changes, Horecker was approached by
future Nobel laureate Arthur Kornberg, who was convinced that enzymes were the
key to understanding intracellular biochemical processes
. Kornberg suggested
they collaborate, and the two began to study the effect of cyanide on the succinic
dehydrogenase system. Cyanide had previously been found to inhibit enzymes
containing a heme group, with the exception of cytochrome c. However, Horecker
and Kornberg found that

  • cyanide did in fact react with cytochrome c and concluded that
  • previous groups had failed to perceive this interaction because
    • the shift in the absorption maximum was too small to be detected by
      visual examination.

Two years later, Kornberg invited Horecker and Leon Heppel to join him in setting up
a new Section on Enzymes in the Laboratory of Physiology at the NIH. Their Section on Enzymes eventually became part of the new Experimental Biology and Medicine
Institute and was later renamed the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic

Horecker and Kornberg continued to collaborate, this time on

  • the isolation of DPN and TPN.

By 1948 they had amassed a huge supply of the coenzymes and were able to
present Otto Warburg, the discoverer of TPN, with a gift of 25 mg of the enzyme
when he came to visit. Horecker also collaborated with Heppel on 

  • the isolation of cytochrome c reductase from yeast and 
  • eventually accomplished the first isolation of the flavoprotein from
    mammalian liver.

Along with his lab technician Pauline Smyrniotis, Horecker began to study

  • the enzymes involved in the oxidation of 6-phosphogluconate and the
    metabolic intermediates formed in the pentose phosphate pathway.

Joined by Horecker’s first postdoctoral student, J. E. Seegmiller, they worked
out a new method for the preparation of glucose 6-phosphate and 6-phosphogluconate, 
both of which were not yet commercially available.
As reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) Classic reprinted here, they

  • purified 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase from brewer’s yeast (1), and 
  • by coupling the reduction of TPN to its reoxidation by pyruvate in
    the presence of lactic dehydrogenase
  • they were able to show that the first product of 6-phosphogluconate oxidation,
  • in addition to carbon dioxide, was ribulose 5-phosphte.
  • This pentose ester was then converted to ribose 5-phosphate by a
    pentose-phosphate isomerase.

They were able to separate ribulose 5-phosphate from ribose 5- phosphate and demonstrate their interconversion using a recently developed nucleotide separation
technique called ion-exchange chromatography. Horecker and Seegmiller later
showed that 6-phosphogluconate metabolism by enzymes from mammalian
tissues also produced the same products

Bernard Horecker

Bernard Horecker

Over the next several years, Horecker played a key role in elucidating the

  • remaining steps of the pentose phosphate pathway.

His total contributions included the discovery of three new sugar phosphate esters,
ribulose 5-phosphate, sedoheptulose 7-phosphate, and erythrose 4-phosphate, and
three new enzymes, transketolase, transaldolase, and pentose-phosphate 3-epimerase.
The outline of the complete pentose phosphate cycle was published in 1955
(2). Horecker’s personal account of his work on the pentose phosphate pathway can
be found in his JBC Reflection (3).1

Horecker’s contributions to science were recognized with many awards and honors
including the Washington Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Achievement in
Biological Sciences (1954) and his election to the National Academy of Sciences in
1961. Horecker also served as president of the American Society of Biological
Chemists (now the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) in 1968.


  • 1 All biographical information on Bernard L. Horecker was taken from Ref. 3.
  • The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.


  1. ↵Horecker, B. L., and Smyrniotis, P. Z. (1951) Phosphogluconic acid dehydrogenase
    from yeast. J. Biol. Chem. 193, 371–381FREE Full Text
  2. Gunsalus, I. C., Horecker, B. L., and Wood, W. A. (1955) Pathways of carbohydrate
    metabolism in microorganisms. Bacteriol. Rev. 19, 79–128  FREE Full Text
  3. Horecker, B. L. (2002) The pentose phosphate pathway. J. Biol. Chem. 277, 47965–
    47971 FREE Full Text

The Pentose Phosphate Pathway (also called Phosphogluconate Pathway, or Hexose
Monophosphate Shunt) is depicted with structures of intermediates in Fig. 23-25
p. 863 of Biochemistry, by Voet & Voet, 3rd Edition. The linear portion of the pathway
carries out oxidation and decarboxylation of glucose-6-phosphate, producing the
5-C sugar ribulose-5-phosphate.

Glucose-6-phosphate Dehydrogenase catalyzes oxidation of the aldehyde
(hemiacetal), at C1 of glucose-6-phosphate, to a carboxylic acid in ester linkage
(lactone). NADPserves as electron acceptor.

6-Phosphogluconolactonase catalyzes hydrolysis of the ester linkage (lactone)
resulting in ring opening. The product is 6-phosphogluconate. Although ring opening
occurs in the absence of a catalyst, 6-Phosphogluconolactonase speeds up the
reaction, decreasing the lifetime of the highly reactive, and thus potentially
toxic, 6-phosphogluconolactone.

Phosphogluconate Dehydrogenase catalyzes oxidative decarboxylation of
6-phosphogluconate, to yield the 5-C ketose ribulose-5-phosphate. The
hydroxyl at C(C2 of the product) is oxidized to a ketone. This promotes loss
of the carboxyl at C1 as CO2.  NADP+ again serves as oxidant (electron acceptor).

pglucose hd

pglucose hd

Reduction of NADP+ (as with NAD+) involves transfer of 2e- plus 1H+ to the
nicotinamide moiety.


NADPH, a product of the Pentose Phosphate Pathway, functions as a reductant in
various synthetic (anabolic) pathways, including fatty acid synthesis.

NAD+ serves as electron acceptor in catabolic pathways in which metabolites are
oxidized. The resultant NADH is reoxidized by the respiratory chain, producing ATP.


Glucose-6-phosphate Dehydrogenase is the committed step of the Pentose
Phosphate Pathway. This enzyme is regulated by availability of the substrate NADP+.
As NADPH is utilized in reductive synthetic pathways, the increasing concentration of
NADP+ stimulates the Pentose Phosphate Pathway, to replenish NADPH.

The remainder of the Pentose Phosphate Pathway accomplishes conversion of the
5-C ribulose-5-phosphate to the 5-C product ribose-5-phosphate, or to the 3-C
glyceraldehyde -3-phosphate and the 6-C fructose-6-phosphate (reactions 4 to 8
p. 863).

Transketolase utilizes as prosthetic group thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), a
derivative of vitamin B1.



Thiamine pyrophosphate binds at the active sites of enzymes in a “V” conformation.The amino group of the aminopyrimidine moiety is close to the dissociable proton,
and serves as the proton acceptor. This proton transfer is promoted by a glutamate
residue adjacent to the pyrimidine ring.

The positively charged N in the thiazole ring acts as an electron sink, promoting
C-C bond cleavage. The 3-C aldose glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate is released.
2-C fragment remains on TPP.

FASEB J. 1996 Mar;10(4):461-70.


The importance of this pathway can easily be underestimated.  The main source for
energy in respiration was considered to be tied to the

  • high energy phosphate bond in phosphorylation and utilizes NADPH, converting it to NADP+.

glycolysis n skeletal muscle in short term, dependent on muscle glycogen conversion
to glucose, and there is a buildup of lactic acid – used as fuel by the heart.  This
pathway accounts for roughly 5% of metabolic needs, varying between tissues,
depending on there priority for synthetic functions, such as endocrine or nucleic
acid production.

The mature erythrocyte and the ocular lens both are enucleate.  85% of their
metabolic energy needs are by anaerobic glycolysis.  Consider the erythrocyte
somewhat different than the lens because it has iron-based hemoglobin, which
exchanges O2 and CO2 in the pulmonary alveoli, and in that role, is a rapid
regulator of H+ and pH in the circulation (carbonic anhydrase reaction), and also to
a lesser extent in the kidney cortex, where H+ is removed  from the circulation to
the urine, making the blood less acidic, except when there is a reciprocal loss of K+.
This is how we need a nomogram to determine respiratory vs renal acidosis or
alkalosis.  In the case of chronic renal disease, there is substantial loss of
functioning nephrons, loss of countercurrent multiplier, and a reduced capacity to
remove H+.  So there is both a metabolic acidosis and a hyperkalemia, with increased
serum creatinine, but the creatinine is only from muscle mass – not accurately
reflecting total body mass, which includes visceral organs.  The only accurate
measure of lean body mass would be in the linear relationship between circulating
hepatic produced transthyretin (TTR).

The pentose phosphate shunt is essential for

  • the generation of nucleic acids, in regeneration of red cells and lens – requiring NADPH.

Insofar as the red blood cell is engaged in O2 exchange, the lactic dehydrogenase
isoenzyme composition is the same as the heart. What about the lens of and cornea the eye, and platelets?  The explanation does appear to be more complex than
has been proposed and is not discussed here.

Section II. Mitochondrial NADH – NADP+ Transhydrogenase Reaction

There is also another consideration for the balance of di- and tri- phospopyridine
nucleotides in their oxidized and reduced forms.  I have brought this into the
discussion because of the centrality of hydride tranfer to mitochondrial oxidative
phosphorylation and the energetics – for catabolism and synthesis.

The role of transhydrogenase in the energy-linked reduction of TPN 

Fritz HommesRonald W. Estabrook∗∗

The Wenner-Gren Institute, University of Stockholm
Stockholm, Sweden
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 11, (1), 2 Apr 1963, Pp 1–6

In 1959, Klingenberg and Slenczka (1) made the important observation that incubation of isolated

  • liver mitochondria with DPN-specific substrates or succinate in the absence of phosphate
    acceptor resulted in a rapid and almost complete reduction of the intramitochondrial TPN.

These and related findings led Klingenberg and co-workers (1-3) to postulate

  • the occurrence of an ATP-controlled transhydrogenase reaction catalyzing the reduction of
    mitochondrial TPN by DPNH. A similar conclusion was reached by Estabrook and Nissley (4).

The present paper describes the demonstration and some properties of an

  • energy-dependent reduction of TPN by DPNH, catalyzed by submitochondrial particles.

Preliminary reports of some of these results have already appeared (5, 6 ) , and a
complete account is being published elsewhere (7).We have studied the energy- dependent reduction of TPN by PNH with submitochondrial particles from both
rat liver and beef heart. Rat liver particles were prepared essentially according to
the method of Kielley and Bronk (8), and beef heart particles by the method of
Low and Vallin (9).


(From the McCollum-Pratt Institute, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,
Maryland)  J. Biol. Chem. 1952, 195:107-119.

NO Kaplan

NO Kaplan

Sidney Colowick

Sidney Colowick

Elizabeth Neufeld

Elizabeth Neufeld

Kaplan studied carbohydrate metabolism in the liver under David M. Greenberg at the
University of California, Berkeley medical school. He earned his Ph.D. in 1943. From
1942 to 1944, Kaplan participated in the Manhattan Project. From 1945 to 1949,
Kaplan worked with Fritz Lipmann at Massachusetts General Hospital to study
coenzyme A. He worked at the McCollum-Pratt Institute of Johns Hopkins University
from 1950 to 957. In 1957, he was recruited to head a new graduate program in
biochemistry at Brandeis University. In 1968, Kaplan moved to the University of
California, San Diego
, where he studied the role of lactate dehydrogenase in cancer. He also founded a colony of nude mice, a strain of laboratory mice useful in the study
of cancer and other diseases. [1] He was a member of the National Academy of
Sciences.One of Kaplan’s students at the University of California was genomic
researcher Craig Venter.[2]3]  He was, with Sidney Colowick, a founding editor of the scientific book series Methods
in Enzymology

Colowick became Carl Cori’s first graduate student and earned his Ph.D. at
Washington University St. Louis in 1942, continuing to work with the Coris (Nobel
Prize jointly) for 10 years. At the age of 21, he published his first paper on the
classical studies of glucose 1-phosphate (2), and a year later he was the sole author on a paper on the synthesis of mannose 1-phosphate and galactose 1-phosphate (3). Both papers were published in the JBC. During his time in the Cori lab,

Colowick was involved in many projects. Along with Herman Kalckar he discovered
myokinase (distinguished from adenylate kinase from liver), which is now known as
adenyl kinase. This discovery proved to be important in understanding transphos-phorylation reactions in yeast and animal cells. Colowick’s interest then turned to
the conversion of glucose to polysaccharides, and he and Earl Sutherland (who
will be featured in an upcoming JBC Classic) published an important paper on the
formation of glycogen from glucose using purified enzymes (4). In 1951, Colowick
and Nathan Kaplan were approached by Kurt Jacoby of Academic Press to do a
series comparable to Methodem der Ferment Forschung. Colowick and Kaplan
planned and edited the first 6 volumes of Methods in Enzymology, launching in 1955
what became a series of well known and useful handbooks. He continued as
Editor of the series until his death in 1985.

The Structure of NADH: the Work of Sidney P. Colowick

Nicole KresgeRobert D. Simoni and Robert L. Hill

On the Structure of Reduced Diphosphopyridine Nucleotide

(Pullman, M. E., San Pietro, A., and Colowick, S. P. (1954)

J. Biol. Chem. 206, 129–141)

Elizabeth Neufeld
·  Born: September 27, 1928 (age 85), Paris, France
·  EducationQueens College, City University of New YorkUniversity of California,

In Paper I (l), indirect evidence was presented for the following transhydrogenase
reaction, catalyzed by an enzyme present in extracts of Pseudomonas


The evidence was obtained by coupling TPN-specific dehydrogenases with the
transhydrogenase and observing the reduction of large amounts of diphosphopyridine nucleotide (DPN) in the presence of catalytic amounts of triphosphopyridine
nucleotide (TPN).

In this paper, data will be reported showing the direct

  • interaction between TPNHz and DPN, in thepresence of transhydrogenase alone,
  • to yield products having the propertiesof TPN and DPNHZ.

Information will be given indicating that the reaction involves

  • a transfer of electrons (or hydrogen) rather than a phosphate 

Experiments dealing with the kinetics and reversibility of the reaction, and with the
nature of the products, suggest that the reaction is a complex one, not fully described
by the above formulation.

Materials and Methods [edited]

The TPN and DPN used in these studies were preparations of approximately 75
percent purity and were prepared from sheep liver by the chromatographic procedure
of Kornberg and Horecker (unpublished). Reduced DPN was prepared enzymatically with alcohol dehydrogenase as described elsewhere (2). Reduced TPN was prepared by treating TPN with hydrosulfite. This treated mixture contained 2 pM of TPNHz per ml.
The preparations of desamino DPN and reduced desamino DPN have been
described previously (2, 3). Phosphogluconate was a barium salt which was kindly
supplied by Dr. B. F. Horecker. Cytochrome c was obtained from the Sigma Chemical Company.

Transhydrogenase preparations with an activity of 250 to 7000 units per mg. were
used in these studies. The DPNase was a purified enzyme, which was obtained
from zinc-deficient Neurospora and had an activity of 5500 units per mg. (4). The
alcohol dehydrogenase was a crystalline preparation isolated from yeast according to the procedure of Racker (5).

Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase from yeast and a 10 per cent pure preparation of the TPN-specific cytochrome c reductase from liver (6) were gifts of Dr. B. F.

DPN was assayed with alcohol and crystalline yeast alcohol dehydrogenase. TPN was determined By the specific phosphogluconic acid dehydrogenase from yeast and also by the specific isocitric dehydrogenase from pig heart. Reduced DPN was
determined by the use of acetaldehyde and the yeast alcohol dehydrogenase.
All of the above assays were based on the measurement of optical density changes
at 340 rnp. TPNHz was determined with the TPN-specific cytochrome c reductase system. The assay of the reaction followed increase in optical density at 550 rnp  as a measure of the reduction of the cytochrome c after cytochrome c
reductase was added to initiate the reaction. The changes at 550 rnp are plotted for different concentrations of TPNHz in Fig. 3, a. The method is an extremely sensitive and accurate assay for reduced TPN.

[No Figures or Table shown]

Formation of DPNHz from TPNHz and DPN-Fig. 1, a illustrates the direct reaction between TPNHz and DPN to form DPNHZ. The reaction was carried out by incubating TPNHz with DPN in the presence of the
transhydrogenase, yeast alcohol dehydrogenase, and acetaldehyde. Since the yeast dehydrogenase is specific for DPN,

  • a decrease in absorption at340 rnp can only be due to the formation of reduced DPN. It can
    be seen from the curves in Fig. 1, a that a decrease in optical density occurs only in the
    presence of the complete system.

The Pseudomonas enzyme is essential for the formation of DPNH2. It is noteworthy
that, under the conditions of reaction in Fig. 1, a,

  • approximately 40 per cent of theTPNH, reacted with the DPN.

Fig. 1, a also indicates that magnesium is not required for transhydrogenase activity.  The reaction between TPNHz and DPN takes place in the absence of alcohol
dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde
. This can be demonstrated by incubating the
two pyridine nucleotides with the transhydrogenase for 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36

FIG. 1. Evidence for enzymatic reaction of TPNHt with DPN.

  • Rate offormation of DPNH2.

(b) DPN disappearance and TPN formation.

(c) Identification of desamino DPNHz as product of reaction of TPNHz with desamino DPN.  (assaying for reduced DPN by the yeast alcohol dehydrogenase technique.

Table I (Experiment 1) summarizes the results of such experiments in which TPNHz was added with varying amounts of DPN.

  • In the absence of DPN, no DPNHz was formed. This eliminates the possibility that TPNH 2 is
    converted to DPNHz
  • by removal ofthe monoester phosphate grouping.

The data also show that the extent of the reaction is

  • dependent on the concentration of DPN.

Even with a large excess of DPN, only approximately 40 per cent of the TPNHzreacts to form reduced DPN. It is of importance to emphasize that in the above
experiments, which were carried out in phosphate buffer, the extent of  the reaction

  • is the same in the presence or absence of acetaldehyde andalcohol dehydrogenase.

With an excess of DPN and different  levels of TPNHZ,

  • the amount of reduced DPN which is formed is
  • dependent on the concentration of TPNHz(Table I, Experiment 2).
  • In all cases, the amount of DPNHz formed is approximately
    40 per cent of the added reduced TPN.

Formation of TPN-The reaction between TPNHz and DPN should yield TPN as well as DPNHz.
The formation of TPN is demonstrated in Table 1. in Fig. 1, b. In this experiment,
TPNHz was allowed to react with DPN in the presence of the transhydrogenase
(PS.), and then alcohol and alcohol dehydrogenase were added . This
would result in reduction of the residual DPN, and the sample incubated with the
transhydrogenase contained less DPN. After the completion of the alcohol
dehydrogenase reaction, phosphogluconate and phosphogluconic dehydrogenase (PGAD) were added to reduce the TPN. The addition of this TPN-specific
dehydrogenase results in an

  • increase inoptical density in the enzymatically treated sample.
  • This change represents the amount of TPN formed.

It is of interest to point out that, after addition of both dehydrogenases,

  • the total optical density change is the same in both

Therefore it is evident that

  • for every mole of DPN disappearing  a mole of TPN appears.

Balance of All Components of Reaction

Table II (Experiment 1) shows that,

  • if measurements for all components of the reaction are made, one can demonstrate
    that there is
  • a mole for mole disappearance of TPNH, and DPN, and
  • a stoichiometric appearance of TPN and DPNH2.
  1. The oxidized forms of the nucleotides were assayed as described
  2. the reduced form of TPN was determined by the TPNHz-specific cytochrome c reductase,
  3. the DPNHz by means of yeast alcohol dehydrogenase plus

This stoichiometric balance is true, however,

  • only when the analyses for the oxidized forms are determined directly on the reaction

When analyses are made after acidification of the incubated reaction mixture,

  • the values found forDPN and TPN are much lower than those obtained by direct analysis.

This discrepancy in the balance when analyses for the oxidized nucleotides are
carried out in acid is indicated in Table II (Experiment 2). The results, when
compared with the findings in Experiment 1, are quite striking.

Reaction of TPNHz with Desamino DPN

Desamino DPN

  • reacts with the transhydrogenase system at the same rate as does DPN (2).

This was of value in establishing the fact that

  • the transhydrogenase catalyzesa transfer of hydrogen rather than a phosphate transfer reaction.

The reaction between desamino DPN and TPNHz can be written in two ways.

TPN f desamino DPNHz

TPNH, + desamino DPN

DPNH2 + desamino TPN

If the reaction involved an electron transfer,

  • desamino DPNHz would be
  • Phosphate transfer would result in the production of reduced

Desamino DPNHz can be distinguished from DPNHz by its

  • slowerrate of reaction with yeast alcohol dehydrogenase (2, 3).

Fig. 1, c illustrates that, when desamino DPN reacts with TPNH2, 

  • the product of the reaction is desamino DPNHZ.

This is indicated by the slow rate of oxidation of the product by yeast alcohol
dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde.

From the above evidence phosphate transfer 

  • has been ruled out as a possible mechanism for the transhydrogenase reaction.

Inhibition by TPN

As mentioned in Paper I and as will be discussed later in this paper,

  • the transhydrogenase reaction does not appear to be readily reversible.

This is surprising, particularly since only approximately 

  • 40 per cent of the TPNHz undergoes reaction with DPN
    under the conditions described above. It was therefore thought that
  • the TPN formed might inhibit further transfer of electrons from TPNH2.

Table III summarizes data showing the

  • strong inhibitory effect of TPN on thereaction between TPNHz and DPN.

It is evident from the data that

  • TPN concentration is a factor in determining the extent of the reaction.

Effect of Removal of TPN on Extent of Reaction

A purified DPNase from Neurospora has been found

  • to cleave the nicotinamide riboside linkagesof the oxidized forms of both TPN and DPN
  • without acting on thereduced forms of both nucleotides (4).

It has been found, however, that

  • the DPNase hydrolyzes desamino DPN at a very slow rate (3).

In the reaction between TPNHz and desamino DPN, TPN and desamino DPNH:,

  • TPNis the only component of this reaction attacked by the Neurospora enzyme
    at an appreciable rate

It was  thought that addition of the DPNase to the TPNHZ-desamino DPN trans-
hydrogenase reaction mixture

  • would split the TPN formed andpermit the reaction to go to completion.

This, indeed, proved to be the case, as indicated in Table IV, where addition of
the DPNase with desamino DPN results in almost

  • a stoichiometric formation of desamino DPNHz
  • and a complete disappearance of TPNH2.

Extent of Reaction in Buffers Other Than Phosphate

All the reactions described above were carried out in phosphate buffer of pH 7.5.
If the transhydrogenase reaction between TPNHz and DPN is run at the same pH
in tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane buffer (TRIS buffer)

  • with acetaldehydeand alcohol dehydrogenase present,
  • the reaction proceeds muchfurther toward completion 
  • than is the case under the same conditions ina phosphate medium (Fig. 2, a).

The importance of phosphate concentration in governing the extent of the reaction
is illustrated in Fig. 2, b.

In the presence of TRIS the transfer reaction

  • seems to go further toward completion in the presence of acetaldehyde
    alcohol dehydrogenase
  • than when these two components are absent.

This is not true of the reaction in phosphate,

  • in which the extent is independent of the alcoholdehydrogenase system.

Removal of one of the products of the reaction (DPNHp) in TRIS thus

  • appears to permit the reaction to approach completion,whereas
  • in phosphate this removal is without effect on the finalcourse of the reaction.

The extent of the reaction in TRIS in the absence of alcohol dehydrogenase
and acetaldehyde

  • somewhat greater than when the reaction is run in phosphate.

TPN also inhibits the reaction of TPNHz with DPN in TRIS medium, but the inhibition

  • is not as marked as when the reaction is carried out in phosphate buffer.

Reversibility of Transhydrogenase Reaction;

Reaction between DPNHz and TPN

In Paper I, it was mentioned that no reversal of the reaction could be achieved in a system containing alcohol, alcohol dehydrogenase, TPN, and catalytic amounts of

When DPNH, and TPN are incubated with the purified transhydrogenase, there is

  • no evidence for reversibility.

This is indicated in Table V which shows that

  • there is no disappearance of DPNHz in such a system.

It was thought that removal of the TPNHz, which might be formed in the reaction,
could promote the reversal of the reaction. Hence,

  • by using the TPNHe-specific cytochrome c reductase, one could
  1. not only accomplishthe removal of any reduced TPN,
  2. but also follow the course of the reaction.

A system containing DPNH2, TPN, the transhydrogenase, the cytochrome c
reductase, and cytochrome c, however, gives

  • no reduction of the cytochrome

This is true for either TRIS or phosphate buffers.2

Some positive evidence for the reversibility has been obtained by using a system

  • DPNH2, TPNH2, cytochrome c, and the cytochrome creductase in TRIS buffer.

In this case, there is, of course, reduction of cytochrome c by TPNHZ, but,

  • when the transhydrogenase is present.,there is
  • additional reduction over and above that due to the added TPNH2.

This additional reduction suggests that some reversibility of the reaction occurred
under these conditions. Fig. 3, b shows

  • the necessity of DPNHzfor this additional reduction.

Interaction of DPNHz with Desamino DPN-

If desamino DPN and DPNHz are incubated with the purified Pseudomonas enzyme,
there appears

  • to be a transfer of electrons to form desamino DPNHz.

This is illustrated in Fig. 4, a, which shows the

  • decreased rate of oxidation by thealcohol dehydrogenase system
  • after incubation with the transhydrogenase.
  • Incubation of desamino DPNHz with DPN results in the formation of DPNH2,
  • which is detected by the faster rate of oxidation by the alcohol dehydrogenase system
  • after reaction of the pyridine nucleotides with thetranshydrogenase (Fig. 4, b).

It is evident from the above experiments that

the transhydrogenase catalyzes an exchange of hydrogens between

  • the adenylic and inosinic pyridine nucleotides.

However, it is difficult to obtain any quantitative information on the rate or extent of
the reaction by the method used, because

  • desamino DPNHz also reacts with the alcohol dehydrogenase system,
  • although at a much slower rate than does DPNH2.


The results of the balance experiments seem to offer convincing evidence that
the transhydrogenase catalyzes the following reaction.


Since desamino DPNHz is formed from TPNHz and desamino DPN,

  • thereaction appears to involve an electron (or hydrogen) transfer
  • rather thana transfer of the monoester phosphate grouping of TPN.

A number of the findings reported in this paper are not readily understandable in
terms of the above simple formulation of the reaction. It is difficult to understand
the greater extent of the reaction in TRIS than in phosphate when acetaldehyde
and alcohol dehydrogenase are present.

One possibility is that an intermediate may be involved which is more easily converted
to reduced DPN in the TRIS medium. The existence of such an intermediate is also
suggested by the discrepancies noted in balance experiments, in which

  • analyses of the oxidized nucleotides after acidification showed
  • much lower values than those found by direct analysis.

These findings suggest that the reaction may involve

  • a 1 electron ratherthan a 2 electron transfer with
  • the formation of acid-labile free radicals as intermediates.

The transfer of hydrogens from DPNHz to desamino DPN

  • to yield desamino DPNHz and DPN and the reversal of this transfer
  • indicate the unique role of the transhydrogenase
  • in promoting electron exchange between the pyridine nucleotides.

In this connection, it is of interest that alcohol dehydrogenase and lactic
dehydrogenase cannot duplicate this exchange  between the DPN and
the desamino systems.3  If one assumes that desamino DPN behaves
like DPN,

  • one might predict that the transhydrogenase would catalyze an
    exchange of electrons (or hydrogen) 3.

Since alcohol dehydrogenase alone

  • does not catalyze an exchange of electrons between the adenylic
    and inosinic pyridine nucleotides, this rules out the possibility
  • that the dehydrogenase is converted to a reduced intermediate
  • during electron between DPNHz and added DPN.

It is hoped to investigate this possibility with isotopically labeled DPN.
Experiments to test the interaction between TPN and desamino TPN are
also now in progress.

It seems likely that the transhydrogenase will prove capable of

  • catalyzingan exchange between TPN and TPNH2, as well as between DPN and

The observed inhibition by TPN of the reaction between TPNHz and DPN may

  • be due to a competition between DPN and TPNfor the TPNH2.


  1. Direct evidence for the following transhydrogenase reaction. catalyzedby an
    enzyme from Pseudomonas fluorescens, is presented.


Balance experiments have shown that for every mole of TPNHz disappearing
1 mole of TPN appears and that for each mole of DPNHz generated 1 mole of
DPN disappears. The oxidized nucleotides found at the end of the reaction,
however, show anomalous lability toward acid.

  1. The transhydrogenase also promotes the following reaction.

TPNHz + desamino DPN -+ TPN + desamino DPNH,

This rules out the possibility that the transhydrogenase reaction involves a
phosphate transfer and indicates that the

  • enzyme catalyzes a shift of electrons (or hydrogen atoms).

The reaction of TPNHz with DPN in 0.1 M phosphate buffer is strongly
inhibited by TPN; thus

  • it proceeds only to the extent of about40 per cent or less, even
  • when DPNHz is removed continuously by meansof acetaldehyde
    and alcohol dehydrogenase.
  • In other buffers, in whichTPN is less inhibitory, the reaction proceeds
    much further toward completion under these conditions.
  • The reaction in phosphate buffer proceedsto completion when TPN
    is removed as it is formed.
  1. DPNHz does not react with TPN to form TPNHz and DPN in the presence
    of transhydrogenase. Some evidence, however, has been obtained for
    the reversibility by using the following system:
  • DPNHZ, TPNHZ, cytochromec, the TPNHz-specific cytochrome c reductase,
    and the transhydrogenase.
  1. Evidence is cited for the following reversible reaction, which is catalyzed
    by the transhydrogenase.

DPNHz + desamino DPN fi DPN + desamino DPNHz

  1. The results are discussed with respect to the possibility that the
    transhydrogenase reaction may
  • involve a 1 electron transfer with theformation of free radicals as intermediates.



  1. Coiowick, S. P., Kaplan, N. O., Neufeld, E. F., and Ciotti, M. M., J. Biol. Chem.,196, 95 (1952).
  2. Pullman, 111. E., Colowick, S. P., and Kaplan, N. O., J. Biol. Chem., 194, 593(1952).
  3. Kaplan, N. O., Colowick, S. P., and Ciotti, M. M., J. Biol. Chem., 194, 579 (1952).
  4. Kaplan, N. O., Colowick, S. P., and Nason, A., J. Biol. Chem., 191, 473 (1951).
  5. Racker, E., J. Biol. Chem., 184, 313 (1950).
  6. Horecker, B. F., J. Biol. Chem., 183, 593 (1950).

Section !II. 


The Leloir pathway: a mechanistic imperative for three enzymes to change
the stereochemical configuration of a single carbon in galactose.

Frey PA.
FASEB J. 1996 Mar;10(4):461-70.

The biological interconversion of galactose and glucose takes place only by way of
the Leloir pathway and requires the three enzymes galactokinase, galactose-1-P
uridylyltransferase, and UDP-galactose 4-epimerase.
The only biological importance of these enzymes appears to be to

  • provide for the interconversion of galactosyl and glucosyl groups.

Galactose mutarotase also participates by producing the galactokinase substrate
alpha-D-galactose from its beta-anomer. The galacto/gluco configurational change takes place at the level of the nucleotide sugar by an oxidation/reduction
mechanism in the active site of the epimerase NAD+ complex. The nucleotide portion
of UDP-galactose and UDP-glucose participates in the epimerization process in two ways:

1) by serving as a binding anchor that allows epimerization to take place at glycosyl-C-4 through weak binding of the sugar, and

2) by inducing a conformational change in the epimerase that destabilizes NAD+ and
increases its reactivity toward substrates.

Reversible hydride transfer is thereby facilitated between NAD+ and carbon-4
of the weakly bound sugars.

The structure of the enzyme reveals many details of the binding of NAD+ and
inhibitors at the active site

The essential roles of the kinase and transferase are to attach the UDP group
to galactose, allowing for its participation in catalysis by the epimerase. The
transferase is a Zn/Fe metalloprotein
, in which the metal ions stabilize the
structure rather than participating in catalysis. The structure is interesting
in that

  • it consists of single beta-sheet with 13 antiparallel strands and 1 parallel strand
    connected by 6 helices.

The mechanism of UMP attachment at the active site of the transferase is a double
, with the participation of a covalent UMP-His 166-enzyme intermediate
in the Escherichia coli enzyme. The evolution of this mechanism appears to have
been guided by the principle of economy in the evolution of binding sites.

PMID: 8647345 Free full text

Section IV.

More on Lipids – Role of lipids – classification

  • Energy
  • Energy Storage
  • Hormones
  • Vitamins
  • Digestion
  • Insulation
  • Membrane structure: Hydrophobic properties

Lipid types

lipid types

lipid types

nat occuring FAs in mammals

nat occuring FAs in mammals

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