GTP metabolic reprogramming by IMPDH2: unlocking cancer cells' fuelling mechanism

J Biochem. 2020 Oct 1;168(4):319-328. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvaa085.


Growing cells increase multiple biosynthetic processes in response to the high metabolic demands needed to sustain proliferation. The even higher metabolic requirements in the setting of cancer provoke proportionately greater biosynthesis. Underappreciated key aspects of this increased metabolic demand are guanine nucleotides and adaptive mechanisms to regulate their concentration. Using the malignant brain tumour, glioblastoma, as a model, we have demonstrated that one of the rate-limiting enzymes for guanosine triphosphate (GTP) synthesis, inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase-2 (IMPDH2), is increased and IMPDH2 expression is necessary for the activation of de novo GTP biosynthesis. Moreover, increased IMPDH2 enhances RNA polymerase I and III transcription directly linking GTP metabolism to both anabolic capacity as well as nucleolar enlargement historically observed as associated with cancer. In this review, we will review in detail the basis of these new discoveries and, more generally, summarize the current knowledge on the role of GTP metabolism in cancer.

Keywords: GTP; IMPDH; glioblastoma; nucleolus; ribosome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cellular Reprogramming
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • IMP Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • IMP Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • IMP Dehydrogenase
  • IMPDH2 protein, human