Glutamate in cancers: from metabolism to signaling

Haowei Yi, Geoff Talmon, Jing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Glutamine and glutamate are major bioenergy substrates for normal and cancer cell growth. Cancer cells need more biofuel than normal tissues for energy supply, anti-oxidation activity and biomass production. Genes related to metabolic chains in many cancers are somehow mutated, which makes cancer cells more glutamate dependent. Meanwhile, glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter for conducting signals through binding with different types of receptors in central neuron system. Interestingly, increasing evidences have shown involvement of glutamate signaling, guided through their receptors, in human malignancy. Dysregulation of glutamate transporters, such as excitatory amino acid transporter and cystine/glutamate antiporter system, also generates excessive extracellular glutamate, which in turn, activates glutamate receptors on cancer cells and results in malignant growth. These features make glutamate an attractive target for anti-cancer drug development with some glutamate targeted but blood brain barrier impermeable anti-psychosis drugs under consideration. We discussed the relevant progressions and drawbacks in this field herein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-270
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cancers
  • glutamate
  • glutamate receptors
  • glutamate transporters
  • metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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