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J Biotechnol. 2011 Sep 20;155(3):299-307. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2011.07.028. Epub 2011 Jul 30.

Metabolic flux analysis gives an insight on verapamil induced changes in central metabolism of HL-1 cells.

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Biochemical Engineering Institute, Saarland University, Campus A1.5, D-66123 Saarbruecken, Germany.


Verapamil has been shown to inhibit glucose transport in several cell types. However, the consequences of this inhibition on central metabolism are not well known. In this study we focused on verapamil induced changes in metabolic fluxes in a murine atrial cell line (HL-1 cells). These cells were adapted to serum free conditions and incubated with 4 μM verapamil and [U-¹³C₅] glutamine. Specific extracellular metabolite uptake/production rates together with mass isotopomer fractions in alanine and glutamate were implemented into a metabolic network model to calculate metabolic flux distributions in the central metabolism. Verapamil decreased specific glucose consumption rate and glycolytic activity by 60%. Although the HL-1 cells show Warburg effect with high lactate production, verapamil treated cells completely stopped lactate production after 24 h while maintaining growth comparable to the untreated cells. Calculated fluxes in TCA cycle reactions as well as NADH/FADH₂ production rates were similar in both treated and untreated cells. This was confirmed by measurement of cell respiration. Reduction of lactate production seems to be the consequence of decreased glucose uptake due to verapamil. In case of tumors, this may have two fold effects; firstly depriving cancer cells of substrate for anaerobic glycolysis on which their growth is dependent; secondly changing pH of the tumor environment, as lactate secretion keeps the pH acidic and facilitates tumor growth. The results shown in this study may partly explain recent observations in which verapamil has been proposed to be a potential anticancer agent. Moreover, in biotechnological production using cell lines, verapamil may be used to reduce glucose uptake and lactate secretion thereby increasing protein production without introduction of genetic modifications and application of more complicated fed-batch processes.

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