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

Characterization of cystathionine synthase as a selectable, liver-specific trait in rat hepatomas.

Cell growth using homocysteine as a source of cysteine-sulphur requires two enzymes, cystathionine synthase ( CS) and gamma-cystathionase (CT). The second of these enzymes, CT, is apparently present in most cell lines regardless of their tissues of origin, since most cells can grow in vitro in the absence of cystine if they are provided with cystathionine, the intermediate in the pathway. Likewise, homocysteine will support the growth of many human cells. However, of a wide range of rodent cells, only well-differentiated rat hepatoma cells were found to grow using homocysteine in place of cystine. It is shown that cell growth in homocysteine-medium correlates well with the presence in the cells of detectable levels of CS. Furthermore, in cells able to grow in homocysteine-medium, it is possible to demonstrate the homocysteine-dependent trans-sulphuration of serine to cysteine. Growth in homocysteine-medium is not dependent on the release of preformed cysteine from disulphide complexes with serum proteins. In cell hybrids, and in 'dedifferentiated' variants of rat hepatomas, CS, but not CT, is subject to extinction coordinately with well-characterized liver-specific traits. For rodent cells, homocysteine-medium thus acts as a selective medium requiring the expression of a single liver-specific trait, CS. In addition it is shown that, in certain hepatoma variants, CS is regulated co-ordinately with a urea-cycle enzyme (carbamoyl phosphate synthetase I) by glucocorticoids and cyclic-AMP. Cell death through cysteine starvation is briefly considered. The immediate cause of death is apparently an insufficient supply of reduced glutathione. Selenium and vitamin E assist cell growth when the supply of cysteine is limiting.[1]


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