Hexokinase II is often highly expressed in poorly differentiated and rapidly growing tumors that exhibit a high rate of aerobic glycolysis. Hexokinase II binds to the mitochondrial membrane through its interaction with the outer membrane voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC), preferentially at contact sites between the outer and inner mitochondrial membrane. This location is thought to be important for the integration of glycolysis with mitochondrial energy metabolism. VDAC is a critical component of the mitochondrial phase of apoptosis and its interaction with Bcl-2 family proteins controls the rate of release of mitochondrial intermembrane space proteins that activate the execution phase of apoptosis. The proteins involved in the contact sites also constitute the mitochondrial permeability transition, one of the mechanisms by which mitochondrial protein release can be mediated. Hexokinase II binding to VDAC suppresses the release of intermembrane space proteins and inhibits apoptosis, thereby contributing to the survival advantage of tumor cells. This interaction places hexokinase II in a position to integrate glycolytic metabolism of the tumor cell with the control of apoptosis at the mitochondrial level. Mitochondrial binding of hexokinase II may constitute an attractive target for therapeutic intervention to suppress tumor growth.
Keywords: hexokinase II, energy metabolism, membrane voltage-dependent anion channel, vdac, apoptosis control
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