Metabolic reprogramming in cancer: unraveling the role of glutamine in tumorigenesis

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 Jun;23(4):362-9. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Feb 11.


Increased glutaminolysis is now recognized as a key feature of the metabolic profile of cancer cells, along with increased aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect). In this review, we discuss the roles of glutamine in contributing to the core metabolism of proliferating cells by supporting energy production and biosynthesis. We address how oncogenes and tumor suppressors regulate glutamine metabolism and how cells coordinate glucose and glutamine as nutrient sources. Finally, we highlight the novel therapeutic and imaging applications that are emerging as a result of our improved understanding of the role of glutamine metabolism in cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Glucose