Glycolytic glioma cells with active glycogen synthase are sensitive to PTEN and inhibitors of PI3K and gluconeogenesis

Marie E. Beckner, Glenn T. Gobbel, Roger Abounader, Fatima Burovic, Naomi R. Agostino, John Laterra, Ian F. Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Increased glycolysis is characteristic of malignancy. Previously, with a mitochondrial inhibitor, we demonstrated that glycolytic ATP production was sufficient to support migration of melanoma cells. Recently, we found that glycolytic enzymes were abundant and some were increased in pseudopodia formed by U87 glioma (astrocytoma) cells. In this study, we examined cell migration, adhesion (a step in migration), and Matrigel invasion of U87 and LN229 glioma cells when their mitochondria were inhibited with sodium azide or limited by 1% O2. Cell migration, adhesion, and invasion were comparable, with and without mitochondrial inhibition. Upon discovering that glycolysis alone can support glioma cell migration, unique features of glucose metabolism in astrocytic cells were investigated. The ability of astrocytic cells to remove lactate, the inhibitor of glycolysis, via gluconeogenesis and incorporation into glycogen led to consideration of supportive genetic mutations. Loss of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) releases glycogenesis from constitutive inhibition by glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3). We hypothesize that glycolysis in gliomas can support invasive migration, especially when aided by loss of PTEN's regulation on the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway leading to inhibition of GSK3. Migration of PTEN-mutated U87 cells was studied for release of extracellular lactic acid and support by gluconeogenesis, loss of PTEN, and active PI3K. Lactic acid levels plateaued and phosphorylation changes confirmed activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway and glycogen synthase when cells relied only on glycolysis. Glycolytic U87 cell migration and phosphorylation of GSK3 were inhibited by PTEN transfection. Glycolytic migration was also suppressed by inhibiting PI3K and gluconeogenesis with wortmannin and metformin, respectively. These findings confirm that glycolytic glioma cells can migrate invasively and that the loss of PTEN is supportive, with activated glycogenic potential included among the relevant downstream effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1457-1470
Number of pages14
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Astrocytoma
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Glycogenesis
  • Glycolysis
  • Migration
  • PTEN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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