PerspectiveImmune Cell Metabolism

Warburg meets epigenetics

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Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 419-420
DOI: 10.1126/science.aak9776

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We are all taught in biochemistry class that in the presence of oxygen, cells will use the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle to efficiently generate adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) via oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). However, in 1924, the biochemist Otto Warburg observed that cancer cells do not follow this rule (1, 2). In fact, even in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells will depend on glycolysis (so-called aerobic glycolysis) to inefficiently generate ATP from glucose. More recently, there has been great interest in the observation that effector T cells will also use glycolysis to generate ATP in the presence of oxygen (3, 4). On page 481 of this issue, Peng et al. (5) make an important link between aerobic glycolysis and epigenetic regulation in T helper 1 (TH1) cell differentiation.