Cell metabolism: an essential link between cell growth and apoptosis.


Growth factor-stimulated or cancerous cells require sufficient nutrients to meet the metabolic demands of cell growth and division. If nutrients are insufficient, metabolic checkpoints are triggered that lead to cell cycle arrest and the activation of the intrinsic apoptotic cascade through a process dependent on the Bcl-2 family of proteins. Given the connections between metabolism and apoptosis, the notion of targeting metabolism to induce cell death in cancer cells has recently garnered much attention. However, the signaling pathways by which metabolic stresses induce apoptosis have not as of yet been fully elucidated. Thus, the best approach to this promising therapeutic avenue remains unclear. This review will discuss the intricate links between metabolism, growth, and intrinsic apoptosis and will consider ways in which manipulation of metabolism might be exploited to promote apoptotic cell death in cancer cells. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Mitochondria: the deadly organelle.