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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Role of disulfiram in the in vitro inhibition of rat liver mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase.

The alcohol aversion therapy drug disulfiram has been shown to inhibit hepatic aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), one of the key enzymes involved in ethanol metabolism. It is believed by some that disulfiram could be one of the active inhibitors in vivo. However, the actual interaction between disulfiram and ALDH remains ambiguous. We report here that when disulfiram inhibited recombinant rat liver mitochondrial ALDH (rlmALDH) in vitro, no significant molecular mass increase was detected during the first 30 min as determined by on-line HPLC-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-MS). This indicated that the inhibition in vitro was not caused directly by covalent adduct formation on the enzyme. We subsequently subjected both control and disulfiram-inhibited rlmALDH to Glu-C proteolytic digestion. LC-MS analysis of the Glu-C digestion of disulfiram-inhibited enzyme revealed that one peptide of M(r) = 4821, which contained the putative active site of the enzyme, exhibited a mass decrease of 2 amu as compared with the same peptide found in the Glu-C digestion of the control (M(r) = 4823). We believe that the loss of 2 amu indicated that inhibition of rlmALDH in vitro was due to formation of an intramolecular disulfide bond between two of the three adjacent cysteines in the active site, possibly via a very rapid and unstable mixed disulfide interchange reaction. Further confirmation of the intramolecular disulfide bond formation came from the fact that by adding dithiothreitol (DTT) we were able to recover partial enzyme activity. In addition, the peptide of M(r) = 4821 observed in the Glu-C digestion of the disulfiram-treated ALDH reverted to M(r) = 4823 after treatment with DTT, which indicated that the disulfide bond was reduced. We, thereby, conclude that disulfiram inhibited rlmALDH by forming an intramolecular disulfide, possibly via a fast intermolecular disulfiram interchange reaction.[1]


  1. Role of disulfiram in the in vitro inhibition of rat liver mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase. Shen, M.L., Lipsky, J.J., Naylor, S. Biochem. Pharmacol. (2000) [Pubmed]
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