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

Oxidation of glutamine in HeLa cells: role and control of truncated TCA cycles in tumour mitochondria.

The oxidative metabolism of glutamine in HeLa cells was investigated using intact cells and isolated mitochondria. The concentrations of the cytoplasmic amino acids were found to be aspartate, 8.0 mM; glutamate, 22.2 mM; glutamine, 11.3 mM; glycine, 9.8 mM; taurine, 2.3 mM; and alanine, < 1 mM. Incubation of the cells with [14C]glutamine gave steady-state recoveries of 14C-label (estimated as exogenous glutamine) in the glutamine, glutamate, and aspartate pools, of 103%, 80%, and 25%, respectively, indicating that glutamine synthetase activity was absent and that a significant proportion of glutamate oxidation proceeded through aspartate aminotransferase. No label was detected in the alanine pool, suggesting that alanine aminotransferase activity was low in these cells. The clearance rate of [14C]glutamine through the cellular compartment was 65 nmol/min per mg protein. There was a 28 s delay after [14C]glutamine was added to the cell before 14C-label was incorporated into the cytoplasm, while the formation of glutamate commenced 10 s later. Aspartate was the major metabolite formed when the mitochondria were incubated in a medium containing either glutamine, glutamate, or glutamate plus malate. The transaminase inhibitor AOA inhibited both aspartate efflux from the mitochondria and respiration. The addition of 2-oxoglutarate failed to relieve glutamate plus malate respiration, indicating that 2-oxoglutarate is part of a well-coupled truncated cycle, of which aspartate aminotransferase has been shown to be a component [Parlo and Coleman (1984): J Biol Chem 259:9997-10003]. This was confirmed by the observation that, although it inhibited respiration, AOA did not affect the efflux of citrate from the mitochondria. Thus citrate does not appear to be a cycle component and is directly transported to the medium. Therefore, it was concluded that the truncated TCA cycle in HeLa cells is the result of both a low rate of citrate synthesis and an active citrate transporter. DNP (10 microM) induced a state III-like respiration only in the presence of succinate, which supports the evidence that NAD-linked dehydrogenases were not coupled to respiration, and suggests that these mitochondria may have a defect in complex I of the electron transport chain. Arising from the present results with HeLa cells and results extant in the literature, it has been proposed that a major regulating mechanism for the flux of glutamate carbon in tumour cells is the competitive inhibition exerted by 2-oxoglutarate on aspartate and alanine aminotransferases. This has been discussed and applied to the data.[1]


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