Molecular and cellular regulation of glucose transporter (GLUT) proteins in cancer

J Cell Physiol. 2005 Mar;202(3):654-62. doi: 10.1002/jcp.20166.


Malignant cells are known to have accelerated metabolism, high glucose requirements, and increased glucose uptake. Transport of glucose across the plasma membrane of mammalian cells is the first rate-limiting step for glucose metabolism and is mediated by facilitative glucose transporter (GLUT) proteins. Increased glucose transport in malignant cells has been associated with increased and deregulated expression of glucose transporter proteins, with overexpression of GLUT1 and/or GLUT3 a characteristic feature. Oncogenic transformation of cultured mammalian cells causes a rapid increase of glucose transport and GLUT1 expression via interaction with GLUT1 promoter enhancer elements. In human studies, high levels of GLUT1 expression in tumors have been associated with poor survival. Studies indicate that glucose transport in breast cancer is not fully explained by GLUT1 or GLUT3 expression, suggesting involvement of another glucose transporter. Recently, a novel glucose transporter protein, GLUT12, has been found in breast and prostate cancers. In human breast and prostate tumors and cultured cells, GLUT12 is located intracellularly and at the cell surface. Trafficking of GLUT12 to the plasma membrane could therefore contribute to glucose uptake. Several factors have been implicated in the regulation of glucose transporter expression in breast cancer. Hypoxia can increase GLUT1 levels and glucose uptake. Estradiol and epidermal growth factor, both of which can play a role in breast cancer cell growth, increase glucose consumption. Estradiol and epidermal growth factor also increase GLUT12 protein levels in cultured breast cancer cells. Targeting GLUT12 could provide novel methods for detection and treatment of breast and prostate cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Growth Substances / metabolism
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Growth Substances
  • Hormones
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Glucose