Glucose transporters: expression, regulation and cancer

Biol Res. 2002;35(1):9-26. doi: 10.4067/s0716-97602002000100004.


Mammalian cells depend on glucose as a major substrate for energy production. Glucose is transported into the cell via facilitative glucose transporters (GLUT) present in all cell types. Many GLUT isoforms have been described and their expression is cell-specific and subject to hormonal and environmental control. The kinetic properties and substrate specificities of the different isoforms are specifically suited to the energy requirements of the particular cell types. Due to the ubiquitousness of these transporters, their differential expression is involved in various disease states such as diabetes, ischemia and cancer. The majority of cancers and isolated cancer cell lines over-express the GLUT family members which are present in the respective tissue of origin under non-cancerous conditions. Moreover, due to the requirement of energy to feed uncontrolled proliferation, cancer cells often express GLUTs which under normal conditions would not be present in these tissues. This over-expression is predominantly associated with the likelihood of metastasis and hence poor patient prognosis. This article presents a review of the current literature on the regulation and expression of GLUT family members and has compiled clinical and research data on GLUT expression in human cancers and in isolated human cancer cell lines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Prognosis


  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Glucose