Posts Tagged ‘2-oxoglutarate’

New Insights on the Warburg Effect [2.2]

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

UPDATED on 7/18/2021

It is the 100 year anniversary of Warburg. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize 34 times.

There is a big resurgence of work related to his work in the last two decades!

Protein networks linking Warburg and Reverse Warburg effects to cancer cell metabolism


Dina Johar1*, Ahmed O. Elmehrath2, Rania M. Khalil3, Mostafa H. Elberry4, Samy Zaky5, Samy A. Shalabi6, Larry H. Bernstein7

1Biochemistry and Nutrition Department, Faculty of Women for Arts, Sciences and Education, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt  

2Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

3Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Delta University for Science and Technology, Gamasa city, Mansoura, Dakahleya, Egypt

4Virology and Immunology Unit, Cancer Biology Department, National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Egypt

5Hepatogastroenterology and infectious diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt

6Clinical Pathology Department, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt, & consultant pathologist, Kuwait

7Triplex Consulting Pharmaceuticals, MA, USA

*Dina Johar, MSc., PhD.

Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Faculty of Women for Arts, Sciences and Education, Ain Shams University, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt  


Ahmed O. Elmehrath

Faculty of Medicine, Cairo university, Cairo, Egypt


Rania M. Khalil, PhD

Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Delta University for Science and Technology, Gamasa city, Mansoura, Dakahleya, Egypt


Mostafa H. Elberry, MSc., MD.

Virology and Immunology Unit, Cancer Biology Department, National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Egypt


Samy Zaky, MD

Hepatogastroenterology and infectious diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt

samyzs55@azhar.edu.eg   |    samyzs55@yahoo.com

Samy A. Shalabi, MD

Emeritus Prof. of Surgical, anatomical and oncopatholoy, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo Egypt, and consultant pathologist, Kuwait


Larry H. Bernstein, MD

Emeritus Prof. Department of Pathology, Yale University, USA

Triplex Consulting Pharmaceuticals, MA, USA


*To whom correspondence should be addressed   



Background: It was 80 years after the Otto Warburg discovery of aerobic glycolysis, a major hallmark in the understanding of cancer. The Warburg effect is the preference of cancer cell for glycolysis that produce lactate even when sufficient oxygen is provided. “Reverse Warburg effect” refers to the interstitial tissue communications with adjacent epithelium, that in the process of carcinogenesis, is needed to be explored. Among these cell-cell communications, the contact between epithelial cells, between epithelial cells and matrix, and between fibroblasts and inflammatory cells in the underlying matrix. Cancer involves dysregulation of Warburg and Reverse Warburg cellular metabolic pathways. Aim: How these gene and protein-based regulatory mechanisms have functioned has been the basis for this review. Method: the importance of the Warburg in oxidative phosphorylation suppression, with increased glycolysis in cancer growth and proliferation are emphasized. Studies that are directed at pathways that would be expected to shift cell metabolism to an increased oxidation and to a decrease in glycolysis are emphasized. Key enzymes required for oxidative phosphorylation, and affect the inhibition of fatty acid metabolism and glutamine dependence are conferred. Discussion: The findings are of special interest to cancer pharmacotherapy. Studies described in this review are concerned with the effects of therapeutic modalities that are intimately related to the Warburg effect. These interactions described may be helpful as adjuvant therapy in controlling the process of proliferation and metastasis.

Keywords: Warburg, tumorigenesis, aerobic, anaerobic, glycolysis, cancer, proliferation, metastasis

Published on 7/13/2021 in:

Cancer therapeutic modalities based on Warburg effect

New Insights on the Warburg Effect [2.2]

Defective Mitochondria Transform Normal Cells into Tumors

GEN News Jul 9, 2015

Ninety-one years ago Otto Warburg demonstrated that cancer cells have impaired respiration, which became known as the Warburg Effect. The interest in this and related work was superceded in the last quarter of the twentieth century by work on the genetic code. Now there is renewed interest.

An international research team reports that a specific defect in mitochondria plays a key role in the transition from normal cells to cancerous ones. The scientists disrupted a key component of mitochondria of otherwise normal cells and the cells took on characteristics of malignant cells.

Their study (“Disruption of cytochrome c oxidase function induces the Warburg effect and metabolic reprogramming”) is published Oncogene and was led by members of the lab of Narayan G. Avadhani, Ph.D., the Harriet Ellison Woodward Professor of Biochemistry in the department of biomedical sciences in the school of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Satish Srinivasan, Ph.D., a research investigator in Dr. Avadhani’s lab, was the lead author.

This is consistent with the 1924 observation by Warburg that cancerous cells consumed glucose at a higher rate than normal cells (Meyerhof ratio) and had defects in their grana, the organelles that are now known as mitochondria. He postulated that these defects led to problems in the process by which the cell produces energy. But the process called oxidative phosphorylation was not yet known. Further work in his laboratory was carried out by Hans Krebs and by Albert Szent Gyorgyi elucidating the tricarboxylic acid cycle.  The discovery of the importance of cytochrome c and adenosine triphosphate in oxidative phosphorylation was made in the post World War II period by Fritz Lippman, with an important contribution by Nathan Kaplan. All of the name scientists, except Kaplan, received Nobel Prizes. The last piece of the puzzle became the demonstation of a sequence of hydrogen transfers on the electron transport chain. The researchers above have now shown that mitochondrial defects indeed contributed to the cells becoming cancerous.

“The first part of the Warburg hypothesis has held up solidly in that most proliferating tumors show high dependence on glucose as an energy source and they release large amounts of lactic acid,” said Dr. Avadhani. “But the second part, about the defective mitochondrial function causing cells to be tumorigenic, has been highly contentious.”

To see whether the second part of Warburg’s postulation was correct, the researchers took cell lines from the skeleton, kidney, breast, and esophagus and used RNA molecules to silence the expression of select components of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase C, or CcO, a critical enzyme involved in oxidative phosphorylation. CcO uses oxygen to make water and set up a transmembrane potential that is used to synthesize ATP, the molecule used for energy by the body’s cells.

The biologists observed that disrupting only a single protein subunit of cytochrome oxidase C led to major changes in the mitochondria and in the cells themselves. “These cells showed all the characteristics of cancer cells,” noted Dr. Avadhani.

The normal cells that converted to cancerous cells displayed changes in their metabolism, becoming more reliant on glucose by utilization of the glycolytic pathway. They reduced their synthesis of ATP.  Oxidative phosphorylation was reduced in concert with the ATP reduction. The large switch to glycolysis as primary energy source is a less efficient means of making ATP that is common in cancer cells.

The cells lost contact inhibition and gained an increased ability to invade distant tissues, both hallmarks of cancer cells. When they were grown in a 3D medium, which closely mimics the natural environment in which tumors grow in the body, the cells with disrupted mitochondria formed large, long-lived colonies, akin to tumors.

The researchers also silenced cytochrome oxidase C subunits in breast and esophageal cancer cell lines. They found that the cells became even more invasive, according to Dr. Srinivasan. The team then looked at actual tumors from human patients and found that the most oxygen-starved regions, which are common in tumors, contained defective versions of CcO.

“That result alone couldn’t tell us whether that was the cause or effect of tumors, but our cell system clearly says that mitochondrial dysfunction is a driving force in tumorigenesis,” explained Dr. Avadhani.

The researchers observed that disrupting CcO triggered the mitochondria to activate a stress signal to the nucleus, akin to an SOS alerting the cell that something was wrong. Dr. Avadhani and his colleagues had previously seen a similar pathway activated in cells with depleted mitochondrial DNA, which is also linked to cancer.

Building on these findings, Dr. Avadhani and members of his lab will examine whether inhibiting components of this mitochondrial stress signaling pathway might be a strategy for preventing cancer progression.

“We are targeting the signaling pathway, developing a lot of small molecules and antibodies,” said Dr. Avadhani. “Hopefully if you block the signaling the cells will not go into the so called oncogenic mode and instead would simply die.”

In addition, they noted that looking for defects in CcO could be a biomarker for cancer screening.

Who controls the ATP supply in cancer cells? Biochemistry lessons to understand cancer energy metabolism

Rafael Moreno-Sánchez, Alvaro Marín-Hernández, Emma Saavedra, Juan P. Pardo, Stephen J. Ralph, Sara Rodríguez-Enríquez
Intl J Biochem Cell Biol 7 Feb 2014; 50:10-23

The supply of ATP in mammalian and human cells is provided by glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos). There are no other pathways or processes able to synthesize ATP at sufficient rates to meet the energy demands of cells. Acetate thiokinase or acetyl-CoA synthetase, a ubiquitous enzyme catalyzing the synthesis of ATP and acetate from acetyl-CoA, PPi and AMP, might represent an exception under hypoxia in cancer cells, although the flux through this branch is negligible (≤10%) when compared to the glycolytic flux (Yoshii et al., 2009).

Glycolysis in human cells can be defined as the metabolic process that transforms 1 mol of glucose (or other hexoses) into 2 moles of lactate plus 2 moles of ATP. These stoichiometric values represent a maximum and due to the several reactions branching off glycolysis, they will be usually lower under physiological conditions, closer to 1.3–1.9 for the lactate/glucose ratio (Travis et al., 1971; Jablonska and Bishop, 1975; Suter and Weidemann, 1975; Hanson and Parsons, 1976; Wu and Davis, 1981; Pick-Kober and Schneider, 1984; Sun et al., 2012). OxPhos is the metabolic process that oxidizes several substrates through the Krebs cycle to produce reducing equivalents (NADH, FADH2), which feed the respiratory chain to generate an H+.

Applying basic biochemical principles, this review analyzes data that contrasts with the Warburg hypothesis that glycolysis is the exclusive ATP provider in cancer cells. Although disregarded for many years, there is increasing experimental evidence demonstrating that oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) makes a significant contribution to ATP supply in many cancer cell types and under a variety of conditions.

Substrates oxidized by normal mitochondria such as amino acids and fatty acids are also avidly consumed by cancer cells. In this regard, the proposal that cancer cells metabolize glutamine for anabolic purposes without the need for a functional respiratory chain and OxPhos is analyzed considering thermodynamic and kinetic aspects for the reductive carboxylation of 2-oxoglutarate catalyzed by isocitrate dehydrogenase.

In addition, metabolic control analysis (MCA) studies applied to energy metabolism of cancer cells are reevaluated. Regardless of the experimental/environmental conditions and the rate of lactate production, the flux-control of cancer glycolysis is robust in the sense that it involves the same steps:

  • glucose transport,
  • hexokinase,
  • hexosephosphate isomerase, and
  • glycogen degradation,

all at the beginning of the pathway; these steps together with phosphofructokinase 1 also control glycolysis in normal cells.

The respiratory chain complexes exert significantly higher flux-control on OxPhos in cancer cells than in normal cells. Thus, determination of the contribution of each pathway to ATP supply and/or the flux-control distribution of both pathways in cancer cells is necessary in order to identify differences from normal cells which may lead to the design of rational alternative therapies that selectively target cancer energy metabolism.

Fig. 1. Labeling patterns of 13C-glutamate or 13C-glutamine mitochondrial metabolism in cancer cells.

Fig. 2. Survey in PubMed of papers published in the field of tumor mitochondrial metabolism from 1951 to September 2013.

Emerging concepts in bioenergetics and cancer research: Metabolic flexibility, coupling, symbiosis, switch, oxidative tumors, metabolic remodeling, signaling and bioenergetic therapy

Emilie Obre, Rodrigue Rossignol
Intl J Biochem Cell Biol 2015; 59:167-181

The field of energy metabolism dramatically progressed in the last decade, owing to a large number of cancer studies, as well as fundamental investigations on related transcriptional networks and cellular interactions with the microenvironment. The concept of metabolic flexibility was clarified in studies showing the ability of cancer cells to remodel the biochemical pathways of energy transduction and linked anabolism in response to glucose, glutamine or oxygen deprivation.

A clearer understanding of the large scale bioenergetic impact of C-MYC, MYCN, KRAS and P53 was obtained, along with its modification during the course of tumor development. The metabolic dialog between different types of cancer cells, but also with the stroma, also complexified the understanding of bioenergetics and raised the concepts of metabolic symbiosis and reverse Warburg effect.

Signaling studies revealed the role of respiratory chain derived reactive oxygen species for metabolic remodeling and metastasis development. The discovery of oxidative tumors in human and mice models related to chemoresistance also changed the prevalent view of dysfunctional mitochondria in cancer cells. Likewise, the influence of energy metabolism-derived oncometabolites emerged as a new means of tumor genetic regulation. The knowledge obtained on the multi-site regulation of energy metabolism in tumors was translated to cancer preclinical studies, supported by genetic proof of concept studies targeting LDHA, HK2, PGAM1, or ACLY.

Here, we review those different facets of metabolic remodeling in cancer, from its diversity in physiology and pathology, to the search of the genetic determinants, the microenvironmental regulators and pharmacological modulators.

Pyruvate kinase M2: A key enzyme of the tumor metabolome and its medical relevance

Mazurek, S.
Biomedical Research 2012; 23(SPEC. ISSUE): Pages 133-142

Tumor cells are characterized by an over expression of the glycolytic pyruvate kinase isoenzyme
type M2 (abbreviations: M2-PK or PKM2). In tumor metabolism the quaternary structure of M2-PK (tetramer/dimer ratio) determines whether glucose is used for glycolytic energy regeneration (highly active tetrameric form, Warburg effect) or synthesis of cell building blocks (nearly inactive dimeric form) which are both prerequisites for cells with a high proliferation rate. In tumor cells the nearly inactive dimeric form of M2- PK is predominant due to direct interactions with different oncoproteins. Besides its key functions in tumor metabolism recent studies revealed that M2-PK may also react as protein kinase as well as co activator of transcription factors. Of medical relevance is the quantification of the dimeric form of M2-PK with either an ELISA or point of care rapid test in plasma and stool that is used for follow-up studies during therapy (plasma M2-PK) and colorectal cancer (CRC) screening (fecal M2-PK; mean sensitivity for CRC in 12 independent studies with altogether 704 samples: 80% ± 7%). An intervention in the regulation mechanisms of the expression, activity and tetramer: dimer ratio of M2-PK has significant consequences for the proliferation rate and tumorigenic capacity of the tumor cells, making this enzyme an intensively

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