Methionine Dependence of Cancer

Biomolecules. 2020 Apr 8;10(4):568. doi: 10.3390/biom10040568.


Tumorigenesis is accompanied by the reprogramming of cellular metabolism. The shift from oxidative phosphorylation to predominantly glycolytic pathways to support rapid growth is well known and is often referred to as the Warburg effect. However, other metabolic changes and acquired needs that distinguish cancer cells from normal cells have also been discovered. The dependence of cancer cells on exogenous methionine is one of them and is known as methionine dependence or the Hoffman effect. This phenomenon describes the inability of cancer cells to proliferate when methionine is replaced with its metabolic precursor, homocysteine, while proliferation of non-tumor cells is unaffected by these conditions. Surprisingly, cancer cells can readily synthesize methionine from homocysteine, so their dependency on exogenous methionine reflects a general need for altered metabolic flux through pathways linked to methionine. In this review, an overview of the field will be provided and recent discoveries will be discussed.

Keywords: S-adenosylmethionine; SAM-checkpoint; cancer; cell cycle; methionine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Methionine / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Methionine