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Mol Cell. 2013 Jul 25;51(2):236-48. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.05.003. Epub 2013 Jun 6.

The proto-oncometabolite fumarate binds glutathione to amplify ROS-dependent signaling.

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Department of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.

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  • Mol Cell. 2013 Jul 25;51(2):273.


The tricarboxylic acid cycle enzyme fumarate hydratase (FH) has been identified as a tumor suppressor in a subset of human renal cell carcinomas. Human FH-deficient cancer cells display high fumarate concentration and ROS levels along with activation of HIF-1. The underlying mechanisms by which FH loss increases ROS and HIF-1 are not fully understood. Here, we report that glutamine-dependent oxidative citric acid cycle metabolism is required to generate fumarate and increase ROS and HIF-1 levels. Accumulated fumarate directly bonds the antioxidant glutathione in vitro and in vivo to produce the metabolite succinated glutathione (GSF). GSF acts as an alternative substrate to glutathione reductase to decrease NADPH levels and enhance mitochondrial ROS and HIF-1 activation. Increased ROS also correlates with hypermethylation of histones in these cells. Thus, fumarate serves as a proto-oncometabolite by binding to glutathione which results in the accumulation of ROS.

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