Assistant Professor Thomas Niehaus

CBS Plant/Microbial Biology
College of Biological Sciences
Twin Cities
Project Title: 
Metabolite Damage

Promiscuous enzymes and spontaneous chemical reactions can convert normalcellular metabolites into noncanonical or damaged metabolites. These damaged metabolites can be a useless drain on metabolism and may be inhibitory and/or reactive, sometimes leading to toxicity. Thus, mechanisms to prevent metabolite damage from occurring (metabolite damage preemption) or to convert damaged metabolites back to physiological forms (metabolite repair) are essential for sustained operation of metabolic networks. Some iconic examples of metabolite damage and its repair or preemption are associated with the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and other metabolite damage control systems are likely to exist here due to the inherent promiscuity of TCA cycle enzymes and reactivity of TCA cycleintermediates.

These researchers are studying known metabolite damage reactions and metabolite damage control systems associated with the TCA cycle. This includes a previously unrecognized metabolite damage control system – anoxaloacetate (OAA) enol-keto tautomerase activity that is "built-in" to the TCA cycle. This activity is required to remove the highly inhibitory enolform of OAA and is likely to be critical for TCA cycle operation. By cataloging these instances, the researchers show that metabolite damage and its repairor preemption is a prevalent feature of the TCA cycle and suggest many more metabolite damage-control systems are likely to exist.

Project Investigators

Katie Hillmann
Assistant Professor Thomas Niehaus
Tony Zmuda
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