Cells must duplicate their mass in order to proliferate. Glucose and glutamine are the major nutrients consumed by proliferating mammalian cells, but the extent to which these and other nutrients contribute to cell mass is unknown. We quantified the fraction of cell mass derived from different nutrients and found that the majority of carbon mass in cells is derived from other amino acids, which are consumed at much lower rates than glucose and glutamine. While glucose carbon has diverse fates, glutamine contributes most to protein, suggesting that glutamine's ability to replenish tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates (anaplerosis) is primarily used for amino acid biosynthesis. These findings demonstrate that rates of nutrient consumption are indirectly associated with mass accumulation and suggest that high rates of glucose and glutamine consumption support rapid cell proliferation beyond providing carbon for biosynthesis.
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