Energy metabolism in tumor cells

FEBS J. 2007 Mar;274(6):1393-418. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.05686.x.


In early studies on energy metabolism of tumor cells, it was proposed that the enhanced glycolysis was induced by a decreased oxidative phosphorylation. Since then it has been indiscriminately applied to all types of tumor cells that the ATP supply is mainly or only provided by glycolysis, without an appropriate experimental evaluation. In this review, the different genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which tumor cells achieve an enhanced glycolytic flux are analyzed. Furthermore, the proposed mechanisms that arguably lead to a decreased oxidative phosphorylation in tumor cells are discussed. As the O(2) concentration in hypoxic regions of tumors seems not to be limiting for the functioning of oxidative phosphorylation, this pathway is re-evaluated regarding oxidizable substrate utilization and its contribution to ATP supply versus glycolysis. In the tumor cell lines where the oxidative metabolism prevails over the glycolytic metabolism for ATP supply, the flux control distribution of both pathways is described. The effect of glycolytic and mitochondrial drugs on tumor energy metabolism and cellular proliferation is described and discussed. Similarly, the energy metabolic changes associated with inherent and acquired resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy of tumor cells, and those determined by positron emission tomography, are revised. It is proposed that energy metabolism may be an alternative therapeutic target for both hypoxic (glycolytic) and oxidative tumors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism


  • Protein Isoforms