The Suitability of Glioblastoma Cell Lines as Models for Primary Glioblastoma Cell Metabolism

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In contrast to most non-malignant tissue, cells comprising the brain tumour glioblastoma (GBM) preferentially utilise glycolysis for metabolism via “the Warburg effect”. Research into therapeutics targeting the disease’s highly glycolytic state offer a promising avenue to improve patient survival. These studies often employ GBM cell lines for in vitro studies which translate poorly to the in vivo patient context. The metabolic traits of five of the most used GBM cell lines were assessed and compared to primary GBM and matched, healthy brain tissue. In patient-derived GBM cell lines, the basal mitochondrial rate (p = 0.043) and ATP-linked respiration (p < 0.001) were lower than primary adjacent normal cells from the same patient, while reserve capacity (p = 0.037) and Krebs cycle capacity (p = 0.002) were higher. Three cell lines, U251MG, U373MG and D54, replicate the mitochondrial metabolism of primary GBM cells. Surprisingly, glycolytic capacity is not different between healthy and GBM tissue. The T98G cell line recapitulated glycolysis-related metabolic parameters of the primary GBM cells and is recommended for research relating to glycolysis. These findings can guide preclinical research into the development of novel therapeutics targeting metabolic pathways in GBM.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3722
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


  • metabolism
  • glioblastoma
  • oncology
  • cell culture
  • metabolic flux
  • glycolysis
  • Cell culture
  • Metabolic flux
  • Glioblastoma
  • Glycolysis
  • Oncology
  • Metabolism


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