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Significance: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has an intricate relationship with cancer and has been studied for more than 60 years. However, the specific mechanisms that allow malignant cells to uptake, metabolize, and compartmentalize vitamin C remain unclear. In normal human cells, two different transporter systems are responsible for its acquisition: glucose transporters (GLUTs) transport the oxidized form of vitamin C (dehydroascorbic acid) and sodium-coupled ascorbic acid transporters (SVCTs) transport the reduced form (ascorbic acid [AA]). In this study, we review the mechanisms described for vitamin C uptake and metabolization in cancer. Recent Advances: Several studies performed recently in vivo and in vitro have provided the scientific community a better understanding of the differential capacities of cancer cells to acquire vitamin C: tumors from different origins do not express SVCTs in the plasma membrane and are only able to acquire vitamin C in its oxidized form. Interestingly, cancer cells differentially express a mitochondrial form of SVCT2. Critical Issues: Why tumors have reduced AA uptake capacity at the plasma membrane, but develop the capacity of AA transport within mitochondria, remains a mystery. However, it shows that understanding vitamin C physiology in tumor survival might be key to decipher the controversies in its relationship with cancer. Future Directions: A comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms by which cancer cells acquire, compartmentalize, and use vitamin C will allow the design of new therapeutic approaches in human cancer. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 35, 61-74.


Carola Muñoz-Montesino, Eduardo Peña, Francisco J Roa, Kirsty Sotomayor, Elizabeth Escobar, Coralia I Rivas. Transport of Vitamin C in Cancer. Antioxidants & redox signaling. 2021 Jul;35(1):61-74

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PMID: 33607936

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