PerspectiveCancer Metabolism

Feeding frenzy for cancer cells

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Science  17 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6365, pp. 862-863
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1070

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Cancer cells are thought to undergo metabolic rewiring to scavenge waste products and recycle them as building blocks for growth. On page 941 of this issue, Spinelli et al. (1) report that ammonia could be recycled through glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH)–mediated reductive amination of α-ketoglutarate to produce the amino acid glutamate that, in turn, is converted to other amino acids such as aspartate and proline for biomass production (see the figure). This intriguing evidence of nitrogen fixation by breast cancer cells is reminiscent of nitrogen fixation in bacteria, yeast, and plants mediated by biochemical systems that evolved to harness nitrogen from the atmosphere for amino acid biosynthesis and biomass accumulation (2).