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

Conversion of canavanine to alpha-keto-gamma-guanidinooxybutyrate and to vinylglyoxylate and 2-hydroxyguanidine.

It was observed previously that hydroxyguanidine is formed in the reaction of canavanine(2-amino-4-guanidinooxybutanoate) with amino acid oxidases. The present work shows that hydroxyguanidine is formed by a nonenzymatic beta,gamma-elimination reaction following enzymatic oxidation at the alpha-C and that the abstraction of the beta-H is general-base catalyzed. The elimination reaction requires the presence in the alpha-position of an anion-stabilizing group--the protonated imino group (iminium ion group) or the carbonyl group. The iminium ion group is more activating than the carbonyl group. Elimination is further facilitated by protonation of the guanidinooxy group. The other product formed in the elimination reaction was identified as vinylglyoxylate (2-oxo-3-butenoate), a very highly electrophilic substance. The product resulting from hydrolysis following oxidation was identified as alpha-keto-gamma-guanidinooxybutyrate (ketocanavanine). The ratio of hydroxyguanidine to ketocanavanine depended upon the concentration and degree of basicity of the basic catalyst and on pH. In the presence of semicarbazide, the elimination reaction was prevented because the imino group in the semicarbazone derivative of ketocanavanine is not significantly protonated. Incubation of canavanine with 5'-deoxypyridoxal also yielded hydroxyguanidine. Since the elimination reactions take place under mild conditions, they may occur in vivo following oxidation at the alpha-C of L-canavanine (ingested or formed endogenously) or of other amino acids with a good leaving group in the gamma-position (e.g., S-adenosylmethionine, methionine sulfoximine, homocyst(e)ine, or cysteine-homocysteine mixed disulfide) by an L-amino acid oxidase, a transaminase, or a dehydrogenase. Therefore, vinylglyoxylate may be a normal metabolite in mammals which at elevated concentrations may contribute to the in vivo toxicity of canavanine and of some of the other above-mentioned amino acids.[1]


  1. Conversion of canavanine to alpha-keto-gamma-guanidinooxybutyrate and to vinylglyoxylate and 2-hydroxyguanidine. Hollander, M.M., Reiter, A.J., Horner, W.H., Cooper, A.J. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. (1989) [Pubmed]
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