Acetate is a bioenergetic substrate for human glioblastoma and brain metastases

Cell. 2014 Dec 18;159(7):1603-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.11.025.


Glioblastomas and brain metastases are highly proliferative brain tumors with short survival times. Previously, using (13)C-NMR analysis of brain tumors resected from patients during infusion of (13)C-glucose, we demonstrated that there is robust oxidation of glucose in the citric acid cycle, yet glucose contributes less than 50% of the carbons to the acetyl-CoA pool. Here, we show that primary and metastatic mouse orthotopic brain tumors have the capacity to oxidize [1,2-(13)C]acetate and can do so while simultaneously oxidizing [1,6-(13)C]glucose. The tumors do not oxidize [U-(13)C]glutamine. In vivo oxidation of [1,2-(13)C]acetate was validated in brain tumor patients and was correlated with expression of acetyl-CoA synthetase enzyme 2, ACSS2. Together, the data demonstrate a strikingly common metabolic phenotype in diverse brain tumors that includes the ability to oxidize acetate in the citric acid cycle. This adaptation may be important for meeting the high biosynthetic and bioenergetic demands of malignant growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetate-CoA Ligase / genetics
  • Acetate-CoA Ligase / metabolism*
  • Acetates / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary
  • Citric Acid Cycle*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology


  • Acetates
  • Glutamic Acid
  • ACSS2 protein, human
  • ACSS2 protein, mouse
  • Acetate-CoA Ligase