Cancer metabolism is characterized by an accelerated glycolytic rate facing reduced activity of oxidative phosphorylation. This "Warburg effect" represents a standard to diagnose and monitor tumor aggressiveness with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose whose uptake is currently regarded as an accurate index of total glucose consumption. Studying cancer metabolic response to respiratory chain inhibition by metformin, we repeatedly observed a reduction of tracer uptake facing a marked increase in glucose consumption. This puzzling discordance brought us to discover that 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose preferentially accumulates within endoplasmic reticulum by exploiting the catalytic function of hexose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase. Silencing enzyme expression and activity decreased both tracer uptake and glucose consumption, caused severe energy depletion and decreased NADPH content without altering mitochondrial function. These data document the existence of an unknown glucose metabolism triggered by hexose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase within endoplasmic reticulum of cancer cells. Besides its basic relevance, this finding can improve clinical cancer diagnosis and might represent potential target for therapy.
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