NYMC Faculty Publications

The Metabolic Importance of the Glutaminase II Pathway in Normal and Cancerous Cells

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Analytical Biochemistry

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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


In rapidly dividing cells, including many cancer cells, l-glutamine is a major energy source. Utilization of glutamine is usually depicted as: l-glutamine → l-glutamate (catalyzed by glutaminase isozymes; GLS1 and GLS2), followed by l-glutamate → α-ketoglutarate [catalyzed by glutamate-linked aminotransferases or by glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH)]. α-Ketoglutarate is a major anaplerotic component of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. However, the glutaminase II pathway also converts l-glutamine to α-ketoglutarate. This pathway consists of a glutamine transaminase coupled to ω-amidase [Net reaction: l-Glutamine + α-keto acid + HO → α-ketoglutarate + l-amino acid + NH]. This review focuses on the biological importance of the glutaminase II pathway, especially in relation to metabolism of cancer cells. Our studies suggest a component enzyme of the glutaminase II pathway, ω-amidase, is utilized by tumor cells to provide anaplerotic carbon. Inhibitors of GLS1 are currently in clinical trials as anti-cancer agents. However, this treatment will not prevent the glutaminase II pathway from providing anaplerotic carbon derived from glutamine. Specific inhibitors of ω-amidase, perhaps in combination with a GLS1 inhibitor, may provide greater therapeutic efficacy.