One-carbon metabolism (1C-metabolism), also called folate metabolism because the carbon group is attached to folate-derived tetrahydrofolate, is crucial in metabolism. It is at the heart of several essential syntheses, particularly those of purine and thymidylate. After a short reminder of the organization of 1C-metabolism, I list its salient features as reported in the literature. Then, using flux balance analysis, a core model of central metabolism and the flux constraints for an ‘average cancer cell metabolism’, I explore the fundamentals underlying 1C-metabolism and its relationships with the rest of metabolism. Some unreported properties of 1C-metabolism emerge, such as its potential roles in mitochondrial NADH exchange with cytosolic NADPH, participation in NADH recycling, and optimization of cell proliferation.

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