2-Deoxy-D-glucose is a glucose molecule which has the 2-hydroxyl group replaced by hydrogen, so that it cannot undergo further glycolysis. As such; it acts to competitively inhibit the production of glucose-6-phosphate from glucose at the phosphoglucoisomerase level (step 2 of glycolysis).
In most cells, glucose hexokinase phosphorylates 2-deoxyglucose, trapping the product 2-deoxyglucose-6-phosphate intracellularly (with exception of liver and kidney); thus, labelled forms of 2-deoxyglucose serve as a good marker for tissue glucose uptake and hexokinase activity. Many cancers have elevated glucose uptake and hexokinase levels. 2-Deoxyglucose labeled with tritium or carbon-14 has been a popular ligand for laboratory research in animal models, where distribution is assessed by tissue-slicing followed by autoradiography, sometimes in tandem with either conventional or electron microscopy.