In a paper published in Nature Cell Biology, Allyson Vaughn and Mohanish Deshmukh have identified a strikingly similar mechanisms used by neurons and cancer cells to evade cell death. Neurons and cancer cells are very different by most criteria, yet have the common characteristic of extensively utilizing glucose. Here, we show that glucose metabolism (via the Pentose Phosphate Pathway) can regulate the redox state of cytochrome c, an event that is critical for its ability to induce apoptosis. Increases in intracellular ROS are commonly seen during aging and in many neurodegenerative diseases. Our results provide mechanistic insight into how even minor changes in cellular metabolism and the redox environment can have a significant impact on a cell’s ability to undergo apoptosis.
Restricting the cell death pathway is critical for a neuron’s long term survival as well as for cancer cell evasion of apoptosis. These results bring into focus the possibility that the multiple mechanisms known to be evolved by neurons to restrict apoptosis could be the same ones adapted by mitotic cells during their progression toward cancer.