Cell Biology Meets Cell Metabolism: Energy Production Is Similar in Stem Cells and in Cancer Stem Cells in Brain and Bone Marrow

Cornelis J. F. van Noorden, Barbara Breznik, Metka Novak, Amber J. van Dijck, Saloua Tanan, Miloš Vittori, Urban Bogataj, Noëlle Bakker, Joseph D. Khoury, Remco J. Molenaar, Vashendriya V. V. Hira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Energy production by means of ATP synthesis in cancer cells has been investigated frequently as a potential therapeutic target in this century. Both (an)aerobic glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) have been studied. Here, we review recent literature on energy production in glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) and leukemic stem cells (LSCs) versus their normal counterparts, neural stem cells (NSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), respectively. These two cancer stem cell types were compared because their niches in glioblastoma tumors and in bone marrow are similar. In this study, it became apparent that (1) ATP is produced in NSCs and HSCs by anaerobic glycolysis, whereas fatty acid oxidation (FAO) is essential for their stem cell fate and (2) ATP is produced in GSCs and LSCs by OXPHOS despite the hypoxic conditions in their niches with FAO and amino acids providing its substrate. These metabolic processes appeared to be under tight control of cellular regulation mechanisms which are discussed in depth. However, our conclusion is that systemic therapeutic targeting of ATP production via glycolysis or OXPHOS is not an attractive option because of its unwanted side effects in cancer patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
Journaljournal of histochemistry and cytochemistry
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • angiogenesis
  • bone marrow
  • brain tumors
  • cancer stem cells
  • hematopoietic stem cells
  • leukemia
  • leukemic stem cells
  • metabolism
  • neural stem cells
  • niches
  • stem cells
  • stemness
  • tumor heterogeneity
  • tumor immune infiltrate
  • tumor microenvironment

Cite this