Cellular metabolic stress: considering how cells respond to nutrient excess

Mol Cell. 2010 Oct 22;40(2):323-32. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2010.10.004.


Nutrient stress is generally considered from the standpoint of how cells detect and respond to an insufficient supply of nutrients to meet their bioenergetic needs. However, cells also experience stress as a result of nutrient excess, during which reactive oxygen species (ROS) production exceeds that required for normal physiological responses. This may occur as a result of oncogene activation or chronic exposure to growth factors combined with high levels of nutrients. As a result, multiple mechanisms have evolved to allow cells to detect and adapt to elevated levels of intracellular metabolites, including promotion of signaling and proliferation by ROS, amino acid-dependent mTOR activation, and regulation of signaling and transcription through metabolite-sensitive protein modifications. We discuss how each of these responses can contribute to the development and/or progression of cancer under conditions of cellular nutrient excess and their potential roles in linking chronic organismal over-nutrition (obesity) with cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species