Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

We need to talk about the Warburg effect

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of Otto Warburg’s first description of the metabolic phenotype bearing his name—a propensity for tumours to metabolize glucose anaerobically rather than aerobically, even when oxygen is available. Generations of scientists have studied the Warburg effect, yet misconceptions persist about its causes and relationship to oxidative metabolism in the mitochondria. Here, we review the definition of the Warburg effect and discuss its place within a modern understanding of cancer biology.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Glycolysis and TCA-cycle metabolism supply anabolic pathways.

References

  1. 1.

    Koppenol, W. H., Bounds, P. L. & Dang, C. V. Nat. Rev. Cancer 11, 325–337 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Lunt, S. Y. & Vander Heiden, M. G. Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 27, 441–464 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Fantin, V. R., St-Pierre, J. & Leder, P. Cancer Cell 9, 425–434 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Patra, K. C. et al. Cancer Cell 24, 213–228 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Newsholme, E. A., Crabtree, B. & Ardawi, M. S. Biosci. Rep. 5, 393–400 (1985).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Chen, P. H. et al. Mol Cell 76, 838–851.e835 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Warburg, O. Science 123, 309–314 (1956).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Weinberg, F. et al. Proc Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 8788–8793 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Tan, A. S. et al. Cell Metab. 21, 81–94 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Ju, Y. S. et al. eLife 3, e02935 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Fan, T. W. et al. Mol. Cancer 8, 41 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Maher, E. A. et al. NMR Biomed. 25, 1234–1244 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hensley, C. T. et al. Cell 164, 681–694 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kernstine, K.H. et al. Ann. Thorac. Surg. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.athoracsur.2019.10.061 (2019).

  15. 15.

    Momcilovic, M. et al. Nature 575, 380–384 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Sena, L. A. et al. Immunity 38, 225–236 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Ansó, E. et al. Nat. Cell Biol. 19, 614–625 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Ma, E. H. et al. Immunity 51, 856–870.e855 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Linehan, W. M. et al. Cancer Discov. 9, 1006–1021 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Shim, E. H. et al. Cancer Discov. 4, 1290–1298 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ralph J. DeBerardinis or Navdeep S. Chandel.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

R.J.D. is an advisor for Agios Pharmaceuticals. N.S.C. is an advisor for Rafael Pharmaceuticals.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

DeBerardinis, R.J., Chandel, N.S. We need to talk about the Warburg effect. Nat Metab 2, 127–129 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-020-0172-2

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing