Transketolase-like protein 1 (TKTL1) is required for rapid cell growth and full viability of human tumor cells

Int J Cancer. 2009 Mar 15;124(6):1330-7. doi: 10.1002/ijc.24078.


Cancer cells display high rates of aerobic glycolysis, a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect. Lactate and pyruvate, the end products of glycolysis, are overproduced by cancer cells even in the presence of oxygen. The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) allows glucose conversion to ribose for nucleic acid synthesis, glucose degradation to lactate, and regeneration of redox equivalents. The nonoxidative part of the PPP is controlled by transketolase (TKT) enzymes. One TKT isoform, the transketolase-like protein 1 (TKTL1) is specifically upregulated in different human cancers and its overexpression predicts a poor patient's survival. This finding implicates that an increased TKTL1 expression may activate the PPP leading to enhanced cancer cell growth and survival. To analyze the functional role of TKTL1 in malignant progression, we inhibited TKTL1 by RNAi technologies in human HCT116 colon carcinoma cells. TKTL1 suppression resulted in a significantly slowed cell growth, glucose consumption and lactate production. In TKTL1 knockdown-cells, the intracellular reactive oxygen species levels were not significantly increased, whereas the sensitivity towards oxidative stress-induced apoptosis was clearly enhanced. These data provide new clues on the importance of TKTL1 dys-regulation in tumor cells and indicate that TKTL1 overexpression may be considered not only as a new tumor marker but also as a good target for anticancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • Colonic Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA Primers
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transfection
  • Transketolase / genetics
  • Transketolase / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Lactic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • TKTL1 protein, human
  • Transketolase
  • Glutathione
  • Glucose