Inhibition of tumour cell growth by carnosine: some possible mechanisms

Amino Acids. 2014 Feb;46(2):327-37. doi: 10.1007/s00726-013-1627-5. Epub 2013 Dec 1.


The naturally occurring dipeptide carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine) has been shown to inhibit, selectively, growth of transformed cells mediated, at least in part, by depleting glycolytic ATP levels. The mechanism(s) responsible has/have yet to be determined. Here, we discuss a number of probable and/or possible processes which could, theoretically, suppress glycolytic activity which would decrease ATP supply and generation of metabolic intermediates required for continued cell reproduction. Possibilities include effects on (i) glycolytic enzymes, (ii) metabolic regulatory activities, (iii) redox biology, (iv) protein glycation, (v) glyoxalase activity, (vi) apoptosis, (vii) gene expression and (viii) metastasis. It is possible, by acting at various sites that this pluripotent dipeptide may be an example of an endogenous "smart drug".

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carnosine / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Carnosine