Cancer cells rewire their metabolism to promote growth, survival, proliferation, and long-term maintenance. The common feature of this altered metabolism is the increased glucose uptake and fermentation of glucose to lactate. This phenomenon is observed even in the presence of completely functioning mitochondria and, together, is known as the 'Warburg Effect'. The Warburg Effect has been documented for over 90 years and extensively studied over the past 10 years, with thousands of papers reporting to have established either its causes or its functions. Despite this intense interest, the function of the Warburg Effect remains unclear. Here, we analyze several proposed explanations for the function of Warburg Effect, emphasize their rationale, and discuss their controversies.
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2, also called Nfe212) is a transcription factor that regulates the cellular redox status. Nrf2 is controlled through a complex transcriptional/epigenetic and post-translational network that ensures its activity increases during redox perturbation, inflammation, growth factor stimulation and nutrient/energy fluxes, thereby enabling the factor to orchestrate adaptive responses to diverse forms of stress. Besides mediating stress-stimulated induction of antioxidant and detoxification genes, Nr12 contributes to adaptation by upregulating the repair and degradation of damaged macromolecules, and by modulating intermediary metabolism. In the latter case, Nrf2 inhibits lipogenesis, supports 0-oxidation of fatty acids, facilitates flux through the pentose phosphate pathway, and increases NADPH regeneration and purine biosynthesis; these observations suggest Nrf2 directs metabolic reprogramming during stress.
Members of the nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat (LRR)-containing (NLR) family and the pyrin and HIN domain (PYHIN) family can form multiprotein complexes termed 'inflammasomes'. The biochemical function of inflammasomes is to activate caspase-1, which leads to the maturation of interleukin 1 beta (IL-1D) and IL-18 and the induction of pyroptosis, a form of cell death. Unlike other inflammasomes, the NLRP3 inflammasome can be activated by diverse stimuli. The importance of the NLRP3 inflammasome in immunity and human diseases has been well documented, but the mechanism and regulation of its activation remain unclear. In this review we summarize current understanding of the mechanism and regulation of NLRP3 inflammasome activation as well as recent advances in the noncanonical and alternative inflammasome pathways.
For many years, structure determination of biological macromolecules by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was limited to large complexes or low-resolution models. With recent advances in electron detection and image processing, the resolution by cryo-EM is now beginning to rival X-ray crystallography. A new generation of electron detectors record images with unprecedented quality, while new image-processing tools correct for sample movements and classify images according to different structural states. Combined, these advances yield density maps with sufficient detail to deduce the atomic structure for a range of specimens. Here, we review the recent advances and illustrate the exciting new opportunities that they offer to structural biology research.
The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), which branches from glycolysis at the first committed step of glucose metabolism, is required for the synthesis of ribonucleotides and is a major source of NADPH. NADPH is required for and consumed during fatty acid synthesis and the scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Therefore, the PPP plays a pivotal role in helping glycolytic cancer cells to meet their anabolic demands and combat oxidative stress. Recently, several neoplastic lesions were shown to have evolved to facilitate the flux of glucose into the PPP. This review summarizes the fundamental functions of the PPP, its regulation in cancer cells, and its importance in cancer cell metabolism and survival.
Cellular stress, induced by external or internal cues, activates several well-orchestrated processes aimed at either restoring cellular homeostasis or committing to cell death. Those processes include the unfolded protein response (UPR), autophagy, hypoxia, and mitochondrial function, which are part of the global endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress (ERS) response. When one of the ERS elements is impaired, as often occurs under pathological conditions, overall cellular homeostasis may be perturbed. Further, activation of the UPR could trigger changes in mitochondrial function or autophagy, which could modulate the UPR, exemplifying crosstalk processes. Among the numerous factors that control the magnitude or duration of these processes are ubiquitin ligases, which govern overall cellular stress outcomes. Here we summarize crosstalk among the fundamental processes governing ERS responses.
The Ras-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Ras-ERK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K-mTOR) signaling pathways are the chief mechanisms for controlling cell survival, differentiation, proliferation, metabolism, and motility in response to extracellular cues. Components of these pathways were among the first to be discovered when scientists began cloning proto-oncogenes and purifying cellular kinase activities in the 1980s. Ras-ERK and PI3K-mTOR were originally modeled as linear signaling conduits activated by different stimuli, yet even early experiments hinted that they might intersect to regulate each other and co-regulate downstream functions. The extent of this cross-talk and its significance in cancer therapeutics are now becoming clear.
Serine and glycine are biosynthetically linked, and together provide the essential precursors for the synthesis of proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids that are crucial to cancer cell growth. Moreover, serine/glycine biosynthesis also affects cellular antioxidative capacity, thus supporting tumour homeostasis. A crucial contribution of serine/glycine to cellular metabolism is through the glycine cleavage system,-which refuels one-carbon metabolism; a complex cyclic metabolic network based on chemical reactions of folate compounds. The importance of serine/glycine metabolism is further highlighted by genetic and functional evidence indicating that hyperactivation of the serine/glycine biosynthetic pathway drives oncogenesis. Recent developments in our understanding of these pathways provide novel translational opportunities for drug development, dietary intervention, and biomarker identification of human cancers.
The suggestion that the native state of many proteins is intrinsically disordered (or, as originally termed, unstructured) is now integral to our general view of protein structure and function. A little more than 10 years ago, however, such challenge to the almost dogmatic 'structure-function paradigm' was pure heresy due to the overwhelming evidence that structure determines function. A decade of steady progress turned skepticism around: this 10-year recap review outlines the situation a decade ago and the major directions of the breathtaking advance achieved by experimental and computational approaches. I show that the evidence for the generality and importance of this phenomenon is now so insurmountable that it demands the inclusion of 'unstructural' biology into mainstream biology and biochemistry textbooks.
Most cancers depend on a high rate of aerobic glycolysis for their continued growth and survival. Paradoxically, some cancer cell lines also display addiction to glutamine despite the fact that glutamine is a nonessential amino acid that can be synthesized from glucose. The high rate of glutamine uptake exhibited by glutamine-dependent cells does not appear to result solely from its role as a nitrogen donor in nucleotide and amino acid biosynthesis. Instead, glutamine plays a required role in the uptake of essential amino acids and in maintaining activation of TOR (target of rapamycin) kinase. Moreover, in many cancer cells, glutamine is the primary mitochondrial substrate and is required for maintenance of mitochondria! membrane potential and integrity and for support of the NADPH production needed for redox control and macromolecular synthesis.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the preferential loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Mitochondrial dysfunction is increasingly appreciated as a key determinant of dopaminergic neuronal susceptibility in PD and is a feature of both familial and sporadic disease, as well as in toxin-induced Parkinsonism. Recently, the mechanisms by which PD-associated mitochondrial proteins phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN)-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) and parkin function and induce neurodegeneration have been identified. In addition, increasing evidence implicates other PD-associated proteins such as alpha-synuclein (alpha-syn) and leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) in mitochondrial dysfunction in genetic cases of PD with the potential for a large functional overlap with sporadic disease. This review highlights how recent advances in understanding familial PD-associated proteins have identified novel mechanisms and therapeutic strategies for addressing mitochondrial dysfunction in PD.
Recent studies have revealed the regulatory potential of many long noncoding RNAs (IncRNAs). Most IncRNAs, like mRNAs, are transcribed by RNA polymerase II and are capped, polyadenylated, and spliced. However, the subcellular fates of IncRNAs are distinct and the mechanisms of action are diverse. Investigating the mechanisms that determine the subcellular fate of IncRNAs has the potential to provide new insights into their biogenesis and specialized functions.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are small and highly reactive molecules that can oxidize proteins, lipids and DNA. When tightly controlled, ROS serve as signaling molecules by modulating the activity of the oxidized targets. Accumulating data point to an essential role for ROS in the activation of autophagy. Be the outcome of autophagy survival or death and the initiation conditions starvation, pathogens or death receptors, ROS are invariably involved. The nature of this involvement, however, remains unclear. Moreover, although connections between ROS and autophagy are observed in diverse pathological conditions, the mode of activation of autophagy and its potential protective role remain incompletely understood. Notably, recent advances in the field of redox regulation of autophagy focus on the role of mitochondria as a source of ROS and on mitophagy as a means for clearance of ROS.
A large portion of the human genome is transcribed into RNAs without known protein-coding functions, far outnumbering coding transcription units. Extensive studies of long noncoding RNAs (IncRNAs) have clearly demonstrated that they can play critical roles in regulating gene expression, development, and diseases, acting both as transcriptional activators and repressors. More recently, enhancers have been found to be broadly transcribed, resulting in the production of enhancer-derived RNAs, or eRNAs. Here, we review emerging evidence suggesting that at least some eRNAs contribute to enhancer function. We discuss these findings with respect to potential mechanisms of action of eRNAs and other ncRNAs in regulated gene expression.
Pyroptosis was long regarded as caspase-1-mediated monocyte death in response to certain bacterial insults. Caspase-1 is activated upon various infectious and immunological challenges through different inflammasomes. The discovery of caspase-11/4/5 function in sensing intracellular lipopolysaccharide expands the spectrum of pyroptosis mediators and also reveals that pyroptosis is not cell type specific. Recent studies identified the pyroptosis executioner, gasdermin D (GSDMD), a substrate of both caspase-1 and caspase-11/4/5. GSDMD represents a large gasdermin family bearing a novel membrane pore-forming activity. Thus, pyroptosis is redefined as gasdermin-mediated programmed necrosis. Gasdermins are associated with various genetic diseases, but their cellular function and mechanism of activation (except for GSDMD) are unknown. The gasdermin family suggests a new area of research on pyroptosis function in immunity, disease, and beyond.
Oncogenic KRAS mutation is the signature genetic event in the progression and growth of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), an almost universally fatal disease. Although it has been appreciated for some time that nearly 95% of PDAC harbor mutationally activated KRAS, to date no effective treatments that target this mutant protein have reached the clinic. A number of studies have shown that oncogenic KRAS plays a central role in controlling tumor metabolism by orchestrating multiple metabolic changes including stimulation of glucose uptake, differential channeling of glucose intermediates, reprogrammed glutamine metabolism, increased autophagy, and macropinocytosis. We review these recent findings and address how they may be applied to develop new PDAC treatments.
The many biological and biomedical effects of selenium are relatively unknown outside the selenium field. This fascinating element, initially described as a toxin, was subsequently shown to be essential for health and development. By the mid-1990s selenium emerged as one of the most promising cancer chemopreventive agents, but subsequent human clinical trials yielded contradictory results. However, basic research on selenium continued to move at a rapid pace, elucidating its many roles in health, development, and in cancer prevention and promotion. Dietary selenium acts principally through selenoproteins, most of which are oxidoreductases involved in diverse cellular functions.
Stress granules (SGs) contain translationally-stalled mRNAs, associated preinitiation factors, and specific RNA-binding proteins. In addition many signaling proteins are recruited to SGs and/or influence their assembly, which is transient, lasting only until the cells adapt to stress or die. Beyond their role as mRNA triage centers, we posit that SGs constitute RNA-centric signaling hubs analogous to classical multiprotein signaling domains such as transmembrane receptor complexes. As signaling centers, SG formation communicates a 'state of emergency', and their transient existence alters multiple signaling pathways by intercepting and sequestering signaling components. SG assembly and downstream signaling functions may require a cytosolic phase transition facilitated by intrinsically disordered, aggregation-prone protein regions shared by RNA-binding and signaling proteins.
In plants, the heat stress response (HSR) is highly conserved and involves multiple pathways, regulatory networks and cellular compartments. At least four putative sensors have recently been proposed to trigger the HSR. They include a plasma membrane channel that initiates an inward calcium flux, a histone sensor in the nucleus, and two unfolded protein sensors in the endoplasmic reticulum and the cytosol. Each of these putative sensors is thought to activate a similar set of HSR genes leading to enhanced thermotolerance, but the relationship between the different pathways and their hierarchical order is unclear. In this review, we explore the possible involvement of different thermosensors in the plant response to warming and heat stress.
lnositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1) is the most conserved transducer of the unfolded protein response (UPR), a homeostatic response that preserves proteostasis. Intriguingly, via its endoribonuclease activity, IRE1 produces either adaptive or death signals. This occurs through both unconventional splicing of XBP1 mRNA and regulated IRE1-dependent decay of mRNA (RIDD). Whereas XBP1 mRNA splicing is cytoprotective in response to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, RIDD has revealed many unexpected features. For instance, RIDD cleaves RNA at an XBP1-like consensus site but with an activity divergent from XBP1 mRNA splicing and can either preserve ER homeostasis or induce cell death. Here we review recent findings on RIDD and propose a model of how IRE1 RNase activity might control cell fate decisions.