Double role for pyruvate kinase type M2 in the expansion of phosphometabolite pools found in tumor cells

Crit Rev Oncog. 1992;3(1-2):91-115.


As a common characteristic of tumor cells, as well as of normal proliferating cells in the G1-phase of cell cycle, one finds constitutive high levels of all the glycolytic metabolites arising between glucose 6-phosphate and phosphoenolpyruvate. Thus, it is that the phosphometabolites fructose 1,6-bisphosphate, ribose 5-P, P-ribose-PP, NAD, GTP, CTO, UTP, UDP-glucose, glycerol 3-P, glycerol phosphocholine and glycerol phosphoethanolamine are useful in the 31P-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) detection of solid tumors in animals and man. This expansion of phosphometabolites is achieved during tumor formation as a result of reductions in levels of enzymes degrading phosphometabolites, owing to the decline in the glycerol 3-P hydrogen shuttle, and as a consequence of alterations in the glycolytic isoenzyme equipment. Tumor cells typically express a particular isoenzyme of pyruvate kinase called type M2 (K) at high levels. This isoenzyme is subject to a complex regulation by amino acids, by fructose 1,6-bisphosphate, and by hormonal- and oncogene-dependent phosphorylation. Pyruvate kinase type M2 is a substrate for the oncogene encoded PP60v-src-tyrosine kinase. A drastic decrease in the affinity for its substrate phosphoenolpyruvate found after transformation by the src-oncogene can be explained as a consequence of the phosphorylation of pyruvate kinase in serine and tyrosine. These phosphorylations induce the breakdown of tetrameric pyruvate kinase to the trimeric and dimeric forms. Unlike the tetrameric form, the dimeric form as a low affinity for phosphoenolpyruvate. Partial inactivation of pyruvate kinase and enolase on the one hand, and a hyperactivation of hexokinase and phosphofructokinase on the other hand, lead to an expansion of all metabolites. Only when these metabolites attain high levels, thereby assuring a sufficient supply of metabolites for RNA, DNA, lipid, and complex carbohydrate synthesis, can cell proliferation proceed. This accumulation of metabolites in the G1-phase cells has been termed a "metabolic budget system" because it senses not only the actual nutrient levels, but also the supply over a period of time. Monoclonal antibodies specific for the dimeric form of pyruvate kinase type M2 can be used for the immunohistological detection of tumor cells. The amount of the dimeric form in tumor cells closely correlates with the degree of malignancy and can be used for a nonspecific detection of tumors based on assays performed with patient's plasma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Diglycerides / physiology
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids / therapeutic use
  • Fructosediphosphates
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase / physiology
  • Glycolysis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / metabolism*
  • Phosphofructokinase-1 / physiology
  • Pyruvate Kinase / physiology*


  • 1,2-diacylglycerol
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Diglycerides
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fructosediphosphates
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Phosphofructokinase-1
  • Pyruvate Kinase
  • fructose-1,6-diphosphate