Folate-mediated one-carbon (1C) metabolism is a major target of many therapies in human diseases. Studies have focused on the metabolism of serine 3-carbon as it serves as a major source for 1C units. The serine 3-carbon enters the mitochondria transferred by folate cofactors and eventually converted to formate and serves as a major building block for cytosolic 1C metabolism. Abnormal glycine metabolism has been reported in many human pathological conditions. The mitochondrial glycine cleavage system (GCS) catalyzes glycine degradation to CO2
and ammonium, while tetrahydrofolate (THF) is converted into 5,10-methylene-THF. GCS accounts for a substantial proportion of whole-body glycine flux in humans, yet the particular metabolic route of glycine 2-carbon recycled from GCS during mitochondria glycine decarboxylation in hepatic or bone marrow 1C metabolism is not fully investigated, due to the limited accessibility of human tissues. Labeled glycine at 2-carbon was given to humans and primary cells in previous studies for investigating its incorporations into purines, its interconversion with serine, or the CO2
production in the mitochondria. Less is known on the metabolic fate of the glycine 2-carbon recycled from the GCS; hence, a model system tracing its metabolic fate would help in this regard. We took the direct approach of isotopic labeling to further explore the in vitro and in vivo metabolic fate of the 2-carbon from [2-13
C]glycine and [2-13
C]serine. As the 2-carbon of glycine and serine is decarboxylated and catabolized via the GCS, the original 13C-labeled 2-carbon is transferred to THF and yield methyleneTHF in the mitochondria. In human hepatoma cell-lines, 2-carbon from glycine was found to be incorporated into deoxythymidine (dTMP, dT + 1), M + 3 species of purines (deoxyadenine, dA and deoxyguanine, dG), and methionine (Met + 1). In healthy mice, incorporation of GCS-derived formate from glycine 2-carbon was found in serine (Ser + 2 via cytosolic serine hydroxy methyl transferase), methionine, dTMP, and methylcytosine (mC + 1) in bone marrow DNA. In these experiments, labeled glycine 2-carbon directly incorporates into Ser + 1, A + 2, and G + 2 (at C2 and C8 of purine) in the cytosol. It is noteworthy that since the serine 3-carbon is unlabeled in these experiments, the isotopic enrichments in dT + 1, Ser + 2, dA + 3, dG + 3, and Met + 1 solely come from the 2-carbon of glycine/serine recycled from GCS, re-enters the cytosolic 1C metabolism as formate, and then being used for cytosolic syntheses of serine, dTMP, purine (M + 3) and methionine. Taken together, we established model systems and successfully traced the metabolic fate of mitochondrial GCS-derived formate from glycine 2-carbon in vitro and in vivo. Nutritional supply significantly alters formate generation from GCS. More GCS-derived formate was used in hepatic serine and methionine syntheses, whereas more GCS-derived formate was used in dTMP synthesis in the bone marrow, indicating that the utilization and partitioning of GCS-derived 1C unit are tissue-specific. These approaches enable better understanding concerning the utilization of 1C moiety generated from mitochondrial GCS that can help to further elucidate the role of GCS in human disease development and progression in future applications. More studies on GCS using these approaches are underway.
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