Glucose metabolism, hyperosmotic stress, and reprogramming of somatic cells

Mol Biotechnol. 2013 Oct;55(2):169-78. doi: 10.1007/s12033-013-9668-2.


The availability of glucose and oxygen are important regulatory elements that help directing stem cell fate. In the undifferentiated state, stem cells, and their artificially reprogrammed equivalent-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are characterized by limited oxidative capacity and active anaerobic glycolysis. Recent studies have shown that pluripotency-a characteristic of staminality-is associated with a poorly developed mitochondrial patrimony, while differentiation is accompanied by an activation of mitochondrial biogenesis. Besides being an important energy source in hypoxia, high glucose level results in hyperosmotic stress. The identification of specific metabolic pathways and biophysical factors that regulate stem cell fate, including high glucose in the extracellular medium, may therefore facilitate reprogramming efficiency and control the differentiation and fate of iPS cells, which are increasingly being explored as therapeutic tools. In this article, we review recent knowledge of the role of glucose metabolism and high glucose level as major anaerobic energy source, and a determinant of osmolarity as possible tools for reprogramming therapies in clinical applications. As in the diabetic setting hyperglycemia negatively affect the stem/progenitor cell fate and likely somatic reprogramming, we also discuss the in vivo potential transferability of the available in vitro findings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Survival
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Osmotic Pressure*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Glucose
  • Oxygen