Inhibition of glycolytic enzymes mediated by pharmacologically activated p53: targeting Warburg effect to fight cancer

J Biol Chem. 2011 Dec 2;286(48):41600-41615. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.240812. Epub 2011 Aug 23.


Unique sensitivity of tumor cells to the inhibition of glycolysis is a good target for anticancer therapy. Here, we demonstrate that the pharmacologically activated tumor suppressor p53 mediates the inhibition of glycolytic enzymes in cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. We showed that p53 binds to the promoters of metabolic genes and represses their expression, including glucose transporters SLC2A12 (GLUT12) and SLC2A1 (GLUT1). Furthermore, p53-mediated repression of transcription factors c-Myc and HIF1α, key drivers of ATP-generating pathways in tumors, contributed to ATP production block. Inhibition of c-Myc by p53 mediated the ablation of several glycolytic genes in normoxia, whereas in hypoxia down-regulation of HIF1α contributed to this effect. We identified Sp1 as a transcription cofactor cooperating with p53 in the ablation of metabolic genes. Using different approaches, we demonstrated that glycolysis block contributes to the robust induction of apoptosis by p53 in cancer cells. Taken together, our data suggest that tumor-specific reinstatement of p53 function targets the "Achilles heel" of cancer cells (i.e. their dependence on glycolysis), which could contribute to the tumor-selective killing of cancer cells by pharmacologically activated p53.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Hypoxia / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Glucose / genetics
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / biosynthesis
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / genetics
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / biosynthesis
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / genetics
  • Glycolysis*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Response Elements*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • MYC protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • SLC2A1 protein, human
  • SLC2A12 protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Glucose