The leloir cycle in glioblastoma: Galactose scavenging and metabolic remodeling

Martyn A. Sharpe, Omkar B. Ijare, David S. Baskin, Alexandra M. Baskin, Brianna N. Baskin, Kumar Pichumani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) can use metabolic fuels other than glucose (Glc). The ability of GBM to use galactose (Gal) as a fuel via the Leloir pathway is investigated. Methods: Gene transcript data were accessed to determine the association between expression of genes of the Leloir pathway and patient outcomes. Growth studies were performed on five primary patient-derived GBM cultures using Glc-free media supplemented with Gal. The role of Glut3/Glut14 in sugar import was investigated using antibody inhibition of hexose transport. A specific inhibitor of GALK1 (Cpd36) was used to inhibit Gal catabolism. Gal metabolism was examined using proton, carbon and phosphorous NMR spectroscopy, with13C-labeled Glc and Gal as tracers. Results: Data analysis from published databases revealed that elevated levels of mRNA transcripts of SLC2A3 (Glut3), SLC2A14 (Glut14) and key Leloir pathway enzymes correlate with poor patient outcomes. GBM cultures proliferated when grown solely on Gal in Glc-free media and switching Glc-grown GBM cells into Gal-enriched/Glc-free media produced elevated levels of Glut3 and/or Glut14 enzymes. The13C NMR-based metabolic flux analysis demonstrated a fully functional Leloir pathway and elevated pentose phosphate pathway activity for efficient Gal metabolism in GBM cells. Conclusion: Expression of Glut3 and/or Glut14 together with the enzymes of the Leloir pathway allows GBM to transport and metabolize Gal at physiological glucose concentrations, providing GBM cells with an alternate energy source. The presence of this pathway in GBM and its selective targeting may provide new treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1815
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2 2021


  • GBM
  • Galactose scavenging
  • Glut14
  • Leloir pathway
  • Pentose phosphate pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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