The FEBS journal

Modeling cancer glycolysis under hypoglycemia, and the role played by the differential expression of glycolytic isoforms.

PMID 24912776


The effect of hypoglycemia on the contents of glycolytic proteins, activities of enzymes/transporters and flux of HeLa and MCF-7 tumor cells was experimentally analyzed and modeled in silico. After 24 h hypoglycemia (2.5 mm initial glucose), significant increases in the protein levels of glucose transporters 1 and 3 (GLUT 1 and 3) (3.4 and 2.1-fold, respectively) and hexokinase I (HKI) (2.3-fold) were observed compared to the hyperglycemic standard cell culture condition (25 mm initial glucose). However, these changes did not bring about a significant increase in the total activities (Vmax ) of GLUT and HK; instead, the affinity of these proteins for glucose increased, which may explain the twofold increased glycolytic flux under hypoglycemia. Thus, an increase in more catalytically efficient isoforms for two of the main controlling steps was sufficient to induce increased flux. Further, a previous kinetic model of tumor glycolysis was updated by including the ratios of GLUT and HK isoforms, modified pyruvate kinase kinetics and an oxidative phosphorylation reaction. The updated model was robust in terms of simulating most of the metabolite levels and fluxes of the cells exposed to various glycemic conditions. Model simulations indicated that the main controlling steps were glycogen degradation > HK > hexosephosphate isomerase under hyper- and normoglycemia, and GLUT > HK > glycogen degradation under hypoglycemia. These predictions were experimentally evaluated: the glycolytic flux of hypoglycemic cells was more sensitive to cytochalasin B (a GLUT inhibitor) than that of hyperglycemic cells. The results indicated that cancer glycolysis should be inhibited at multiple controlling sites, regardless of external glucose levels, to effectively block the pathway. The mathematical models described here have been submitted to the JWS Online Cellular Systems Modelling Database and can be accessed at [Database section added 21 July 2014 after original online publication].