October 2011

Metabolism re-emerges, triumphant

Meetings_MetabolismIn the past five years, there has been a dramatic resurgence in interest in metabolism as it has become apparent that deregulation of metabolism underlies the pathology in a wide variety of common diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. The 2012 annual meeting’s symposium on metabolism and disease will focus on the role of metabolism in the context of signaling pathways, cancer, aging and the whole organism.

Organismal metabolism  

First, Joe Bass (Northwestern University) will talk about recent efforts to understand how metabolism and physiology are coordinated with circadian rhythms in mammals. Circadian rhythms have been linked to a variety of metabolic diseases, and it is of great interest and importance to understand this intimate relationship between the circadian clock and cellular metabolism.

Next, Manuel Llinas (Princeton University) will talk about the unique features of metabolism in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite that causes malaria. Understanding the metabolism of this organism and its relationship to the host may reveal novel opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

Then Benjamin Tu (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas) will describe his work, which focuses on understanding the role of metabolism and metabolic state in the regulation of cell growth and proliferation in budding yeast.

Signaling and metabolism 

This round of talks will focus on how signal transduction pathways acutely control metabolism in response to different cellular stresses and environmental cues.

It will feature Jared Rutter (University of Utah), who will report on recent discoveries about a novel conserved mechanism by which mitochondrial protein turnover is connected to oxidative stress. Previously uncharacterized, conserved mitochondrial proteins play critical roles in a number of physiological circumstances.

Anne Brunet (Stanford University) will describe an unbiased biochemical approach to identifying new substrates of the AMP-activated protein kinase that connect energy sensing and metabolism to cell-cycle progression.

Finally, Reuben Shaw (Salk Institute) will cover recent discoveries connecting energy metabolism to control of autophagy. Mechanistic coordination of metabolism with pro-growth signaling pathways through modulation of the AMPK pathway also will be discussed.

Cancer cell metabolism 

This component will focus on how metabolic pathways are reprogrammed in cancer cells. Over a century ago, Otto Warburg discovered that tumor cells switch from oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis as their primary form of glucose metabolism, which is now known as the Warburg effect.

The first speaker, Gregg Semenza (Johns Hopkins University), will address recent efforts to understand how hypoxia-inducible factor transcription factors contribute to the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells. In particular, HIF-1a has been shown to regulate the expression of many glycolytic enzymes and enzymes downregulating oxidative phosphorylation, which broadly contribute to the Warburg effect.

Eileen White (Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute for Cancer Research) will discuss her lab’s latest research decoding how autophagy plays key roles in tumorigenesis. Autophagy has emerged as a critical pathway normal and cancer cells utilize to maintain metabolic homeostasis, and deregulation of autophagy can lead to cancer.

Heather Christofk (University of California, Los Angeles) will highlight newly identified cellular mechanisms that cancer cells use in adapting their glucose metabolism and how such pathways may be exploited therapeutically.




Aging metabolism 

This part will focus on the role of metabolism in aging and lifespan. First, Marc Van Gilst (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) will report on efforts to understand the role of nutrition and food intake on reproductive longevity and stem-cell viability using C. elegans as a model system.

Charles Brenner (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) will cover efforts to elucidate the complex relationship between calorie restriction, metabolism and cellular lifespan using budding yeast as a model system.

Meng Wang (Baylor College of Medicine) will emphasize the important role of lipids and lipid metabolism in aging and reproductive lifespan using C. elegans as a model system.

Meetings_Metabolism_Ruben_ShawMeetings_Metabolism_Benjamin_TuReuben Shaw (shaw@salk.edu) is an assistant professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Ben Tu (benjamin.tu@utsouthwestern.edu) is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

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