In Silico Modeling-based Identification of Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT4)-selective Inhibitors for Cancer Therapy

J Biol Chem. 2015 Jun 5;290(23):14441-53. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.628826. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


Tumor cells rely on elevated glucose consumption and metabolism for survival and proliferation. Glucose transporters mediating glucose entry are key proximal rate-limiting checkpoints. Unlike GLUT1 that is highly expressed in cancer and more ubiquitously expressed in normal tissues, GLUT4 exhibits more limited normal expression profiles. We have previously determined that insulin-responsive GLUT4 is constitutively localized on the plasma membrane of myeloma cells. Consequently, suppression of GLUT4 or inhibition of glucose transport with the HIV protease inhibitor ritonavir elicited growth arrest and/or apoptosis in multiple myeloma. GLUT4 inhibition also caused sensitization to metformin in multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia and a number of solid tumors suggesting the broader therapeutic utility of targeting GLUT4. This study sought to identify selective inhibitors of GLUT4 to develop a more potent cancer chemotherapeutic with fewer potential off-target effects. Recently, the crystal structure of GLUT1 in an inward open conformation was reported. Although this is an important achievement, a full understanding of the structural biology of facilitative glucose transport remains elusive. To date, there is no three-dimensional structure for GLUT4. We have generated a homology model for GLUT4 that we utilized to screen for drug-like compounds from a library of 18 million compounds. Despite 68% homology between GLUT1 and GLUT4, our virtual screen identified two potent compounds that were shown to target GLUT4 preferentially over GLUT1 and block glucose transport. Our results strongly bolster the utility of developing GLUT4-selective inhibitors as anti-cancer therapeutics.

Keywords: Warburg effect; cancer; glucose transport; glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4); multiple myeloma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Databases, Pharmaceutical
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / chemistry
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / metabolism
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / chemistry
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Glucose