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Frank A Simmen, Iad Alhallak, and Rosalia C M Simmen

Malic enzyme 1 (ME1) is a cytosolic protein that catalyzes the conversion of malate to pyruvate while concomitantly generating NADPH from NADP. Early studies identified ME1 as a mediator of intermediary metabolism primarily through its participatory roles in lipid and cholesterol biosynthesis. ME1 was one of the first identified insulin-regulated genes in liver and adipose and is a transcriptional target of thyroxine. Multiple studies have since documented that ME1 is pro-oncogenic in numerous epithelial cancers. In tumor cells, the reduction of ME1 gene expression or the inhibition of its activity resulted in decreases in proliferation, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and in vitro migration, and conversely, in promotion of oxidative stress, apoptosis and/or cellular senescence. Here, we integrate recent findings to highlight ME1’s role in oncogenesis, provide a rationale for its nexus with metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and raise the prospects of targeting the cytosolic NADPH network to improve therapeutic approaches against multiple cancers.