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

5-Formyltetrahydrofolate is an inhibitory but well tolerated metabolite in Arabidopsis leaves.

5-Formyltetrahydrofolate (5-CHO-THF) is formed via a second catalytic activity of serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT) and strongly inhibits SHMT and other folate-dependent enzymes in vitro. The only enzyme known to metabolize 5-CHO-THF is 5-CHO-THF cycloligase (5-FCL), which catalyzes its conversion to 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate. Because 5-FCL is mitochondrial in plants and mitochondrial SHMT is central to photorespiration, we examined the impact of an insertional mutation in the Arabidopsis 5-FCL gene (At5g13050) under photorespiratory (30 and 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1)) and non-photorespiratory (3200 micromol of CO2 mol(-1)) conditions. The mutation had only mild visible effects at 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1), reducing growth rate by approximately 20% and delaying flowering by 1 week. However, the mutation doubled leaf 5-CHO-THF level under all conditions and, under photorespiratory conditions, quadrupled the pool of 10-formyl-/5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolates (which could not be distinguished analytically). At 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1), the mitochondrial 5-CHO-THF pool was 8-fold larger in the mutant and contained most of the 5-CHO-THF in the leaf. In contrast, the buildup of 10-formyl-/5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolates was extramitochondrial. In photorespiratory conditions, leaf glycine levels were up to 46-fold higher in the mutant than in the wild type. Furthermore, when leaves were supplied with 5-CHO-THF, glycine accumulated in both wild type and mutant. These data establish that 5-CHO-THF can inhibit SHMT in vivo and thereby influence glycine pool size. However, the near-normal growth of the mutant shows that even exceptionally high 5-CHO-THF levels do not much affect fluxes through SHMT or any other folate-dependent reaction, i.e. that 5-CHO-THF is well tolerated in plants.[1]


  1. 5-Formyltetrahydrofolate is an inhibitory but well tolerated metabolite in Arabidopsis leaves. Goyer, A., Collakova, E., Díaz de la Garza, R., Quinlivan, E.P., Williamson, J., Gregory, J.F., Shachar-Hill, Y., Hanson, A.D. J. Biol. Chem. (2005) [Pubmed]
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