Members of Dr. David Hockenbery's laboratory study the metabolic programs utilized in normal and neoplastic cells and metabolic control of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in a variety of experimental systems.
Cancer cells are known to exhibit aerobic glycolysis, or the Warburg effect, while normal counterparts rely more on aerobic respiration. There is considerable variability, however, in cellular metabolic pathways used by cancer cells. This reprogramming can create novel dependencies; for example, specific cancer cell lines are selectively sensitive to inhibitors of glutaminolysis, serine biosynthesis and fatty acid biosynthesis. There is emerging evidence that metabolic pathways regulate chromatin accessibility by providing metabolic substrates for histone and DNA modifications, and thus, affect cell fate decisions. This is highly relevant for innate and adaptive immune responses, as specific metabolic pathways are required to develop and sustain cytotoxic, memory, and regulatory T cells, and M1/M2 subsets of macrophages. Although less well defined, apoptotic cell fates likely depend on metabolic cues as well, particularly those affecting mitochondrial protein homeostasis.