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A growing number of studies describe a connection between glycosphingolipids (GSLs) and glutamine metabolism, glucose metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer cells. Since deregulated cell energy metabolism is one of cancer cells hallmarks, investigating this connection is an important step in the development of anti-cancer therapies. GSL species are often aberrantly regulated in human cancers. They cluster in signaling platforms in the plasma membrane and organelle membranes in so called glycosphingolipid enriched microdomains (GEMs), thereby regulating cell signaling pathways. The most important glutamine transporter for epithelial cells, alanine-serine-cysteine transporter 2 (ASCT2) locates in GEMs and is regulated by GEM composition. The accumulation of glucosylceramide and lactosylceramide in mitochondria associated ER membranes (MAMs) leads to increased oxidative phosphorylation. This increases mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and influences mitochondrial dynamics. Here, we review current knowledge about deregulated GSL species in cancer, GSL influence on glutamine and glucose metabolism. In addition, the role of GSLs in MAMs, oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and mitochondrial dynamics with a special focus on mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling is discussed. mTOR seems to play a pivotal role in the connection between GSLs and glutamine metabolism as well as in mitochondrial signaling. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Nina Schömel, Gerd Geisslinger, Marthe-Susanna Wegner. Influence of glycosphingolipids on cancer cell energy metabolism. Progress in lipid research. 2020 Jul;79:101050

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PMID: 32592726

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