Yin Yang 1 promotes the Warburg effect and tumorigenesis via glucose transporter GLUT3

Cancer Sci. 2018 Aug;109(8):2423-2434. doi: 10.1111/cas.13662. Epub 2018 Jul 12.


Cancer cells typically shift their metabolism to aerobic glycolysis to fulfill the demand of energy and macromolecules to support their proliferation. Glucose transporter (GLUT) family-mediated glucose transport is the pacesetter of aerobic glycolysis and, thus, is critical for tumor cell metabolism. Yin Yang 1 (YY1) is an oncogene crucial for tumorigenesis; however, its role in tumor cell glucose metabolism remains unclear. Here, we revealed that YY1 activates GLUT3 transcription by directly binding to its promoter and, concomitantly, enhances tumor cell aerobic glycolysis. This regulatory effect of YY1 on glucose entry into the cells is critical for YY1-induced tumor cell proliferation and tumorigenesis. Intriguingly, YY1 regulation of GLUT3 expression, and, subsequently, of tumor cell aerobic glycolysis and tumorigenesis, occurs p53-independently. Our results also showed that clinical drug oxaliplatin suppresses colon carcinoma cell proliferation by inhibiting the YY1/GLUT3 axis. Together, these results link YY1's tumorigenic potential with the critical first step of aerobic glycolysis. Thus, our novel findings not only provide new insights into the complex role of YY1 in tumorigenesis but also indicate the potential of YY1 as a target for cancer therapy irrespective of the p53 status.

Keywords: Warburg effect; Yin Yang 1; glucose transporter 3; glucose transporter family; p53-independent.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / drug effects
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Glucose Transporter Type 3 / genetics*
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Glycolysis / genetics
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / pharmacology
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Walker-Warburg Syndrome / genetics*
  • Walker-Warburg Syndrome / pathology
  • YY1 Transcription Factor / genetics*


  • Glucose Transporter Type 3
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • YY1 Transcription Factor
  • Oxaliplatin