Hypersensitization of tumor cells to glycolytic inhibitors

H. Liu, Y. P. Hu, N. Savaraj, W. Priebe, T. J. Lampidis

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124 Scopus citations


The slow growth of cells in the inner core of solid tumors presents a form of multidrug resistance to most of the standard chemotherapeutic agents, which target the outer more rapidly dividing cells. However, the anaerobic environment of the more centrally located tumor cells also provides an opportunity to exploit their dependence on glycolysis for therapeutic gain. We have developed two in vitro models to investigate this possibility. Model A represents osteosarcoma wild-type (wt) cells treated with agents which inhibit mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (Oxphos) by interacting with complexes I, III, and V of the electron transport chain in different ways, i.e., rhodamine 123 (Rho 123), rotenone, antimycin A, and oligomycin. All of these agents were found to hypersensitize wt cells to the glycolytic inhibitor 2-deoxyglucose. Cells treated with Rho 123 also become hypersensitive to oxamate, an analogue of pyruvate, which blocks the step of glycolysis that converts pyruvate to lactic acid. Model B is ρ0 cells which have lost their mitochondrial DNA and therefore cannot undergo Oxphos. These cells are 10 and 4.9 times more sensitive to 2-deoxyglucose and oxamate, respectively, than wt cells. Lactic acid levels, which are a measure of anaerobic metabolism, were found to be >3 times higher in ρ0 than in wt cells. Moreover, when wt cells were treated with Rho 123, lactic acid amounts increased as a function of increasing Rho 123 doses. Under similar Rho 123 treatment, ρ0 cells did not increase their lactic acid levels. These data confirm that cell models A and B are similarly sensitive to glycolytic inhibitors due to their dependence on anaerobic metabolism. Overall, our in vitro results suggest that glycolytic inhibitors could be used to specifically target the slow-growing cells of a tumor and thereby increase the efficacy of current chemotherapeutic and irradiation protocols designed to kill rapidly dividing cells. Moreover, glycolytic inhibitors could be particularly useful in combination with anti-angiogenic agents, which, a priori, should make tumors more anaerobic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5542-5547
Number of pages6
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 8 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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