The Warburg effect revisited—Lesson from the Sertoli cell

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Otto Warburg observed that cancerous cells prefer fermentative instead of oxidative metabolism of glucose, although the former is in theory less efficient. Since Warburg's pioneering works, special attention has been given to this difference in cell metabolism. The Warburg effect has been implicated in cell transformation, immortalization, and proliferation during tumorigenesis. Cancer cells display enhanced glycolytic activity, which is correlated with high proliferation, and thus, glycolysis appears to be an excellent candidate to target cancer cells. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to noncancerous cells that exhibit a “Warburg-like” metabolism with slight, but perhaps crucial, alterations that may provide new directions to develop new and effective anticancer therapies. Within the testis, the somatic Sertoli cell (SC) presents several common metabolic features analogous to cancer cells, and a clear “Warburg-like” metabolism. Nevertheless, SCs actively proliferate only during a specific time period, ceasing to divide in most species after puberty, when they become terminally differentiated. The special metabolic features of SC, as well as progression from the immature but proliferative state, to the mature nonproliferative state, where a high glycolytic activity is maintained, make these cells unique and a good model to discuss new perspectives on the Warburg effect. Herein we provide new insight on how the somatic SC may be a source of new and exciting information concerning the Warburg effect and cell proliferation.