Brief report: The uricase mutation in humans increases our risk for cancer growth

Cancer Metab. 2021 Sep 15;9(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s40170-021-00268-3.


Background: Recent studies suggest that fructose, as well as its metabolite, uric acid, have been associated with increased risk for both cancer incidence and growth. Both substances are known to cause oxidative stress to mitochondria and to reduce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production by blocking aconitase in the Krebs cycle. The uricase mutation that occurred in the Miocene has been reported to increase serum uric acid and to amplify the effects of fructose to stimulate fat accumulation. Here we tested whether the uricase mutation can also stimulate tumor growth.

Methods: Experiments were performed in mice in which uricase was inactivated by either knocking out the gene or by inhibiting uricase with oxonic acid. We also studied mice transgenic for uricase. These mice were injected with breast cancer cells and followed for 4 weeks.

Results: The inhibition or knockout of uricase was associated with a remarkable increase in tumor growth and metastases. In contrast, transgenic uricase mice showed reduced tumor growth.

Conclusion: A loss of uricase increases the risk for tumor growth. Prior studies have shown that the loss of the mutation facilitated the ability of fructose to increase fat which provided a survival advantage for our ancestors that came close to extinction from starvation in the mid Miocene. Today, however, excessive fructose intake is rampant and increasing our risk not only for obesity and metabolic syndrome, but also cancer. Obesity-associated cancer may be due, in part, to a mutation 15 million years ago that acted as a thrifty gene.

Keywords: Fructose; Obesity; Thrifty gene; Tumor growth; Uric acid; Uricase.