The ins and outs of serine and glycine metabolism in cancer

S.L. Geeraerts, E. Heylen, K. De Keersmaecker*, K.R. Kampen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Cancer cells reprogramme their metabolism to support unrestrained proliferation and survival in nutrient-poor conditions. Whereas non-transformed cells often have lower demands for serine and glycine, several cancer subtypes hyperactivate intracellular serine and glycine synthesis and become addicted to de novo production. Copy-number amplifications of serine- and glycine-synthesis genes and genetic alterations in common oncogenes and tumour-suppressor genes enhance serine and glycine synthesis, resulting in high production and secretion of these oncogenesis-supportive metabolites. In this Review, we discuss the contribution of serine and glycine synthesis to cancer progression. By relying on de novo synthesis pathways, cancer cells are able to enhance macromolecule synthesis, neutralize high levels of oxidative stress and regulate methylation and tRNA formylation. Furthermore, we discuss the immunosuppressive potential of serine and glycine, and the essentiality of both amino acids to promoting survival of non-transformed neighbouring cells. Finally, we point to the emerging data proposing moonlighting functions of serine- and glycine-synthesis enzymes and examine promising small molecules targeting serine and glycine synthesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-141
Number of pages11
JournalNature Metabolism
Volume3
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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