Investigation and characterisation of the genetic variation in the coding region of the glycine N-acyltransferase gene
Van der Sluis, Rencia
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Thorough investigation of the glycine conjugation pathway has been neglected over the last 30 years. Environmental factors, nutrition, and the chronic use of medications are increasing the exposure of humans to benzoate and drugs that are metabolized to acyl-CoA intermediates. Glycine conjugation of mitochondrial acyl-CoAs, catalysed by glycine N-acyltransferase (GLYAT, E.C. 188.8.131.52), is an important metabolic pathway responsible for maintaining adequate levels of free coenzyme A (CoASH). However, because of the small number of pharmaceutical drugs that are conjugated to glycine, the pathway has not yet been characterised in detail. Therefore, one of the objectives of this thesis was to develop a better understanding of glycine conjugation and its role in metabolism. In humans and animals a number of endogenous and xenobiotic organic acids are conjugated to glycine. Glycine conjugation has generally been assumed to be a detoxification mechanism, increasing the water solubility of organic acids in order to facilitate urinary excretion. However, recently it was proposed that the role of the amino acid conjugations, including glycine conjugation, is to regulate systemic levels of amino acids that are also utilised as neurotransmitters in the central nervous systems of animals. The glycine deportation hypothesis was based on the observation that, compared to glucuronidation, glycine conjugation does not significantly increase the water solubility of aromatic acids. A thorough review of the literature for this thesis showed that the major role of glycine conjugation, however, is to dispose of the end products of phenylpropionate metabolism. The review also introduced the new perspective that mitochondrial glycine conjugation prevents the accumulation of benzoate in the mitochondrial matrix by forming hippuric acid a less lipophilic conjugate that can be more readily transported out of the mitochondria. Although organic anion transporters can export benzoate from the matrix, this process would likely be futile because benzoic acid can simply diffuse back into the matrix. Hippurate, however, is significantly less lipophilic and therefore less capable of diffusing into the matrix. It is therefore not the transport out of the mitochondrial matrix that is facilitated by glycine conjugation, but rather the ability of the glycine conjugates to re-enter the matrix that is decreased. Lastly, glycine conjugation of benzoate also exacerbates the dietary deficiency of glycine in humans. Because the resulting shortage of glycine can negatively influence brain neurochemistry and the synthesis of collagen, nucleic acids, porphyrins, and other important metabolites, the risks of using benzoate as a preservative should not be underestimated. To date, no defect of the glycine conjugation pathway has been reported and this, together with the fact that GLYAT plays an important role in hepatic metabolism, suggests that this pathway is essential for survival. GLYAT activity affects mitochondrial ATP production, glycine availability, CoASH availability and the toxicity of various organic acids. Therefore, variation in the glycine conjugation pathway could influence liver cancer, musculoskeletal development and mitochondrial energy metabolism. Significant interindividual variation exists in glycine conjugation capacity. The molecular basis for this variability is not known. The main aim of this thesis was to investigate and characterise the genetic variation in the coding region of the GLYAT gene. This was accomplished by firstly, investigating the influence of non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the enzyme activity of a recombinant human GLYAT and secondly, by analysing the level of genetic variation in the coding region of the GLYAT gene using existing worldwide population data. To investigate the influence of non-synonymous SNPs in the GLYAT gene on the enzyme activity, a recombinant human GLYAT was prepared, and characterised. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to generate six variants of the enzyme (K16N; S17T; R131H; N156S; F168L; R199C). The variants were expressed, purified, and enzymatically characterised. The enzyme activities of the K16N, S17T and R131H variants were similar to that of the wild-type, whereas the N156S variant was more active, the F168L variant less active, and the R199C variant was inactive. The results showed that SNP variations in the human GLYAT gene can influence the kinetic properties of the enzyme. The genetic variation data of the human GLYAT open reading frame (ORF) available on public databases was investigated by formulating the hypothesis that due to the essential nature of the glycine conjugation pathway, the genetic variation in the ORF of the GLYAT gene should be low and that deleterious alleles will be found at low frequencies. Data from the i) 1000 Genome Project, ii) the HapMap Project, and iii) the Khoi-San/Bantu Sequencing Project was downloaded from available databases. Sequence data of the coding region of a small cohort of South African Afrikaner Caucasian individuals was also generated and included in the analyses. In the GLYAT ORF of the 1537 individuals analysed, only two haplotypes (S156 and T17S156) out of 14 haplotypes were identified in all populations as having the highest haplotype frequencies (70% and 20% respectively). The S156C199 and S156H131 haplotypes, which have a deleterious effect on the enzyme activity of a recombinant human GLYAT, were detected at very low frequencies. The results of this study indicated that the GLYAT ORF is remarkably conserved, which supports the hypothesis that the glycine conjugation pathway is an essential detoxification pathway. The findings presented in this thesis highlight the importance that future investigations should determine the in vivo capacity of the glycine conjugation pathway for the detoxification of benzoate and other xenobiotics.