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Authors: Vaupel, Peter
Multhoff, Gabriele
Title: Revisiting the Warburg effect : historical dogma versus current understanding
Online publication date: 2-Jul-2021
Language: english
Abstract: Contrary to Warburg's original thesis, accelerated aerobic glycolysis is not a primary, permanent and universal consequence of dysfunctional or impaired mitochondria compensating for poor ATP yield per mole of glucose. Instead, in most tumours the Warburg effect is an essential part of a ‘selfish’ metabolic reprogramming, which results from the interplay between (normoxic/hypoxic) hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) overexpression, oncogene activation (cMyc, Ras), loss of function of tumour suppressors (mutant p53, mutant phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN), microRNAs and sirtuins with suppressor functions), activated (PI3K–Akt–mTORC1, Ras–Raf–MEK–ERK–cMyc, Jak–Stat3) or deactivated (LKB1–AMPK) signalling pathways, components of the tumour microenvironment, and HIF-1 cooperation with epigenetic mechanisms. Molecular and functional processes of the Warburg effect include: (a) considerable acceleration of glycolytic fluxes; (b) adequate ATP generation per unit time to maintain energy homeostasis and electrochemical gradients; (c) backup and diversion of glycolytic intermediates facilitating the biosynthesis of nucleotides, non-essential amino acids, lipids and hexosamines; (d) inhibition of pyruvate entry into mitochondria; (e) excessive formation and accumulation of lactate, which stimulates tumour growth and suppression of anti-tumour immunity – in addition, lactate can serve as an energy source for normoxic cancer cells and drives malignant progression and resistances to conventional therapies; (f) cytosolic lactate being mainly exported through upregulated lactate–proton symporters (MCT4), working together with other H+ transporters, and carbonic anhydrases (CAII, CAIX), which hydrate CO2 from oxidative metabolism to form H+ and bicarbonate; (g) these proton export mechanisms, in concert with poor vascular drainage, being responsible for extracellular acidification, driving malignant progression and resistance to conventional therapies; (h) maintenance of the cellular redox homeostasis and low reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation; and (i) HIF-1 overexpression, mutant p53 and mutant PTEN, which inhibit mitochondrial biogenesis and functions, negatively impacting cellular respiration rate. The glycolytic switch is an early event in oncogenesis and primarily supports cell survival. All in all, the Warburg effect, i.e. aerobic glycolysis in the presence of oxygen and – in principle – functioning mitochondria, constitutes a major driver of the cancer progression machinery, resistance to conventional therapies, and poor patient outcome. However, as evidenced during the last two decades, in a minority of tumours primary mitochondrial defects can play a key role promoting the Warburg effect and tumour progression due to mutations in some Krebs cycle enzymes and mitochondrial ROS overproduction.
DDC: 610 Medizin
610 Medical sciences
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 04 Medizin
Place: Mainz
Version: Published version
Publication type: Zeitschriftenaufsatz
License: CC BY-NC
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Journal: The journal of physiology
Pages or article number: 1745
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Publisher place: Hoboken, NJ
Issue date: 2021
ISSN: 1469-7793
Publisher URL:
Publisher DOI: 10.1113/JP278810
Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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