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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Sep 1;112(35):10902-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510730112. Epub 2015 Aug 17.

Homeostasis and the glycogen shunt explains aerobic ethanol production in yeast.

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Magnetic Resonance Research Center and Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520
Magnetic Resonance Research Center and Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520.


Aerobic glycolysis in yeast and cancer cells produces pyruvate beyond oxidative needs, a paradox noted by Warburg almost a century ago. To address this question, we reanalyzed extensive measurements from (13)C magnetic resonance spectroscopy of yeast glycolysis and the coupled pathways of futile cycling and glycogen and trehalose synthesis (which we refer to as the glycogen shunt). When yeast are given a large glucose load under aerobic conditions, the fluxes of these pathways adapt to maintain homeostasis of glycolytic intermediates and ATP. The glycogen shunt uses glycolytic ATP to store glycolytic intermediates as glycogen and trehalose, generating pyruvate and ethanol as byproducts. This conclusion is supported by studies of yeast with a partial block in the glycogen shunt due to the cif mutation, which found that when challenged with glucose, the yeast cells accumulate glycolytic intermediates and ATP, which ultimately leads to cell death. The control of the relative fluxes, which is critical to maintain homeostasis, is most likely exerted by the enzymes pyruvate kinase and fructose bisphosphatase. The kinetic properties of yeast PK and mammalian PKM2, the isoform found in cancer, are similar, suggesting that the same mechanism may exist in cancer cells, which, under these conditions, could explain their excess lactate generation. The general principle that homeostasis of metabolite and ATP concentrations is a critical requirement for metabolic function suggests that enzymes and pathways that perform this critical role could be effective drug targets in cancer and other diseases.


Pasteur effect; Warburg effect; glycogen synthesis; glycolysis; homeostasis

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