Novel role of zinc in the regulation of prostate citrate metabolism and its implications in prostate cancer

Prostate. 1998 Jun 1;35(4):285-96. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0045(19980601)35:4<285::aid-pros8>;2-f.


The prostate gland of humans and many other animals has the major function of accumulating and secreting extraordinarily high levels of citrate. This specialized metabolic process of "net citrate production" is the result of unique metabolic capabilities of the secretory epithelial cells. Most importantly, in prostate cancer (Pca) the capability for net citrate production is lost. In addition to citrate, the normal and BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) prostate also accumulates the highest levels of zinc in the body. As with citrate, in Pca the ability for high zinc accumulation is diminished. These and other correlations between zinc and citrate in the prostate have been indicative of an important role of zinc in the regulation of citrate metabolism in normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells. The link between zinc and citrate metabolism has now been established. The intramitochondrial accumulation of high zinc levels inhibits mitochondrial (m-) aconitase activity, which inhibits citrate oxidation. This essentially truncates the Krebs cycle and markedly decreases the cellular energy (ATP) production normally coupled to citrate oxidation. It is also clear that zinc accumulation in citrate-producing prostate epithelial cells is regulated by testosterone and by prolactin. These relationships form the basis for a new concept of the role of zinc and citrate-related energy metabolism in prostate malignancy. The inability of malignant prostate cells to accumulate high zinc levels results in increased citrate oxidation and the coupled ATP production essential for the progression of malignancy. The concept offers new approaches to the treatment of Pca.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aconitate Hydratase / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Citrates / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Prostate / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Rats
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Citrates
  • Aconitate Hydratase
  • Zinc