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The Hexosamine Biosynthesis Pathway: Regulation and Function

The hexosamine biosynthesis pathway (HBP) produces uridine diphosphate-N-acetyl glucosamine, UDP-GlcNAc, which is a key metabolite that is used for N- or O-linked glycosylation, a co- or post-translational modification, respectively, that modulates protein activity and expression. […] This review discusses the regulation of GFAT, the key enzyme of the de novo HBP, as well as other metabolic enzymes that catalyze the reactions to produce UDP-GlcNAc. We also examine the contribution of the salvage mechanisms in the HBP and how dietary supplementation of the salvage metabolites glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine could reprogram metabolism and have therapeutic potential. We elaborate on how UDP-GlcNAc is utilized for N-glycosylation of membrane and secretory proteins and how the HBP is reprogrammed during nutrient fluctuations to maintain proteostasis. We also consider how O-GlcNAcylation is coupled to nutrient availability and how this modification modulates cell signaling. We summarize how deregulation of protein N-glycosylation and O-GlcNAcylation can lead to diseases including cancer, diabetes, immunodeficiencies, and congenital disorders of glycosylation. We review the current pharmacological strategies to inhibit GFAT and other enzymes involved in the HBP or glycosylation and how engineered prodrugs could have better therapeutic efficacy for the treatment of diseases related to HBP deregulation.