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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 25;283(30):20621-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M706494200. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Quantifying reductive carboxylation flux of glutamine to lipid in a brown adipocyte cell line.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering, Bioinformatics and Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


We previously reported that glutamine was a major source of carbon for de novo fatty acid synthesis in a brown adipocyte cell line. The pathway for fatty acid synthesis from glutamine may follow either of two distinct pathways after it enters the citric acid cycle. The glutaminolysis pathway follows the citric acid cycle, whereas the reductive carboxylation pathway travels in reverse of the citric acid cycle from alpha-ketoglutarate to citrate. To quantify fluxes in these pathways we incubated brown adipocyte cells in [U-(13)C]glutamine or [5-(13)C]glutamine and analyzed the mass isotopomer distribution of key metabolites using models that fit the isotopomer distribution to fluxes. We also investigated inhibitors of NADP-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase and mitochondrial citrate export. The results indicated that one third of glutamine entering the citric acid cycle travels to citrate via reductive carboxylation while the remainder is oxidized through succinate. The reductive carboxylation flux accounted for 90% of all flux of glutamine to lipid. The inhibitor studies were compatible with reductive carboxylation flux through mitochondrial isocitrate dehydrogenase. Total cell citrate and alpha-ketoglutarate were near isotopic equilibrium as expected if rapid cycling exists between these compounds involving the mitochondrial membrane NAD/NADP transhydrogenase. Taken together, these studies demonstrate a new role for glutamine as a lipogenic precursor and propose an alternative to the glutaminolysis pathway where flux of glutamine to lipogenic acetyl-CoA occurs via reductive carboxylation. These findings were enabled by a new modeling tool and software implementation (Metran) for global flux estimation.

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