Metabolic stress in autophagy and cell death pathways.


Growth factors and oncogenic kinases play important roles in stimulating cell growth during development and transformation. These processes have significant energetic and synthetic requirements and it is apparent that a central function of growth signals is to promote glucose metabolism to support these demands. Because metabolic pathways represent a fundamental aspect of cell proliferation and survival, there is considerable interest in targeting metabolism as a means to eliminate cancer. A challenge, however, is that molecular links between metabolic stress and cell death are poorly understood. Here we review current literature on how cells cope with metabolic stress and how autophagy, apoptosis, and necrosis are tightly linked to cell metabolism. Ultimately, understanding of the interplay between nutrients, autophagy, and cell death will be a key component in development of new treatment strategies to exploit the altered metabolism of cancer cells.