ABSTRACT Statistics and experiments indicate a correlation between cancer mortality and nitrite in drinking water. Nitrite is a reductant that can deprive a cell of oxygen; it is also an oxidant that can be a substrate in anaerobic ammonium oxidation, the metabolic mode of the anammox bacteria. Eukaryote cells evolved through a fusion of anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. We postulate that an anammox bacterium sought refuge in a fusion with a membrane-bound cluster of aerobic bacteria. While the latter evolved into mitochondria organelles, the former became the nucleus of a prokaryote cell. Eventually, oxidative phosphorilation is the characteristic metabolic pathway of normal eukaryote cells, and we postulate that anammox is the protein-catabolism pathway for cancer cells. The metabolism consumes nitrite and explains thus the link between nitrite and cancer.
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