Fasting induces anti-Warburg effect that increases respiration but reduces ATP-synthesis to promote apoptosis in colon cancer models

Oncotarget. 2015 May 20;6(14):11806-19. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.3688.


Tumor chemoresistance is associated with high aerobic glycolysis rates and reduced oxidative phosphorylation, a phenomenon called "Warburg effect" whose reversal could impair the ability of a wide range of cancer cells to survive in the presence or absence of chemotherapy. In previous studies, Short-term-starvation (STS) was shown to protect normal cells and organs but to sensitize different cancer cell types to chemotherapy but the mechanisms responsible for these effects are poorly understood. We tested the cytotoxicity of Oxaliplatin (OXP) combined with a 48hour STS on the progression of CT26 colorectal tumors. STS potentiated the effects of OXP on the suppression of colon carcinoma growth and glucose uptake in both in vitro and in vivo models. In CT26 cells, STS down-regulated aerobic glycolysis, and glutaminolysis, while increasing oxidative phosphorylation. The STS-dependent increase in both Complex I and Complex II-dependent O(2) consumption was associated with increased oxidative stress and reduced ATP synthesis. Chemotherapy caused additional toxicity, which was associated with increased succinate/Complex II-dependent O(2) consumption, elevated oxidative stress and apoptosis .These findings indicate that the glucose and amino acid deficiency conditions imposed by STS promote an anti-Warburg effect characterized by increased oxygen consumption but failure to generate ATP, resulting in oxidative damage and apoptosis.

Keywords: Warburg effect; colon cancer; fasting; glucose uptake; oxidative phosphorylation.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cell Respiration / physiology*
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis


  • Adenosine Triphosphate