Yeast and cancer cells – common principles in lipid metabolism

Author(s): Natter K, Kohlwein SD


One of the paradigms in cancer pathogenesis is the requirement of a cell to undergo transformation from respiration to aerobic glycolysis – the Warburg effect – to become malignant. The demands of a rapidly proliferating cell for carbon metabolites for the synthesis of biomass, energy and redox equivalents, are fundamentally different from the requirements of a differentiated, quiescent cell, but it remains open whether this metabolic switch is a cause or a consequence of malignant transformation. One of the major requirements is the synthesis of lipids for membrane formation to allow for cell proliferation, cell cycle progression and cytokinesis. Enzymes involved in lipid metabolism were indeed found to play a major role in cancer cell proliferation, and most of these enzymes are conserved in the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Most notably, cancer cell physiology and metabolic fluxes are very similar to those in the fermenting and rapidly proliferating yeast. Both types of cells display highly active pathways for the synthesis of fatty acids and their incorporation into complex lipids, and imbalances in synthesis or turnover of lipids affect growth and viability of both yeast and cancer cells. Thus, understanding lipid metabolism in S. cerevisiae during cell cycle progression and cell proliferation may complement recent efforts to understand the importance and fundamental regulatory mechanisms of these pathways in cancer.

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