Posttranslational modification of 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase as an important feature of cancer metabolism

PLoS One. 2011 May 4;6(5):e19645. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019645.


Background: Human cancers consume larger amounts of glucose compared to normal tissues with most being converted and excreted as lactate despite abundant oxygen availability (Warburg effect). The underlying higher rate of glycolysis is therefore at the root of tumor formation and growth. Normal control of glycolytic allosteric enzymes appears impaired in tumors; however, the phenomenon has not been fully resolved.

Methodology/principal findings: In the present paper, we show evidence that the native 85-kDa 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase (PFK1), a key regulatory enzyme of glycolysis that is normally under the control of feedback inhibition, undergoes posttranslational modification. After proteolytic cleavage of the C-terminal portion of the enzyme, an active, shorter 47-kDa fragment was formed that was insensitive to citrate and ATP inhibition. In tumorigenic cell lines, only the short fragments but not the native 85-kDa PFK1 were detected by immunoblotting. Similar fragments were detected also in a tumor tissue that developed in mice after the subcutaneous infection with tumorigenic B16-F10 cells. Based on limited proteolytic digestion of the rabbit muscle PFK-M, an active citrate inhibition-resistant shorter form was obtained, indicating that a single posttranslational modification step was possible. The exact molecular masses of the active shorter PFK1 fragments were determined by inserting the truncated genes constructed from human muscle PFK1 cDNA into a pfk null E. coli strain. Two E. coli transformants encoding for the modified PFK1s of 45,551 Da and 47,835 Da grew in glucose medium. The insertion of modified truncated human pfkM genes also stimulated glucose consumption and lactate excretion in stable transfectants of non-tumorigenic human HEK cell, suggesting the important role of shorter PFK1 fragments in enhancing glycolytic flux.

Conclusions/significance: Posttranslational modification of PFK1 enzyme might be the pivotal factor of deregulated glycolytic flux in tumors that in combination with altered signaling mechanisms essentially supports fast proliferation of cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Endopeptidase K / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Fructosediphosphates / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Phosphofructokinase-1, Muscle Type / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Phosphofructokinase-1, Muscle Type / chemistry
  • Phosphofructokinase-1, Muscle Type / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational* / drug effects
  • Rabbits
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Transfection
  • Transformation, Genetic / drug effects


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Fructosediphosphates
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Lactic Acid
  • fructose 2,6-diphosphate
  • Phosphofructokinase-1, Muscle Type
  • PFKM protein, human
  • Endopeptidase K
  • Glucose