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Adv Enzyme Regul. 1990;30:13-32.

Metabolic control analysis of mammalian serine metabolism.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Surrey, Guildford, U.K.


(1) Mammalian serine metabolism is discussed in relation to its synthesis and utilization in proliferating cells, particularly during the nonmalignant proliferation of lymphocytes. (2) An analysis of the control of serine biosynthesis de novo under conditions of high pathway flux has been carried out using metabolic control theory. (3) The important and novel conclusions are that control of pathway flux is localized exclusively at the final step of this biosynthetic pathway, phosphoserine phosphatase. This conclusion challenges the frequently stated maxim that control of biosynthetic pathways is always directed at the first pathway enzyme in a sequence. In the case of phosphoserine phosphatase, the enzyme is inhibited uncompetitively by its product serine, and this feedback control mechanism has the most significant controlling influence on overall pathway flux. Thus, the serine biosynthesis pathway, under these conditions, is controlled by product demand (serine utilization) and not by substrate supply (glycolytic provision of 3-phosphoglycerate), despite the high rate of glycolysis associated with cell proliferation. (4) The control structure of the pathway is not immutable. As has been observed with other pathways analyzed by metabolic control theory, the key points of control in the pathway can shift according to physiological circumstances. At low pathway flux, the control of serine biosynthesis is shared between all the component enzymes of the pathway, and the responsiveness of flux shifts from product demand to substrate supply. (5) Serine utilization has been studied in mitogenically-stimulated human peripheral lymphocytes. Cell proliferation and serine utilization for nucleic acid synthesis have been shown to be responsive to serine concentrations in the normal plasma range. (6) It is concluded that the maintenance of normal plasma serine concentrations is an important factor in the rate of lymphocyte proliferation and hence the effectiveness with which the body can mount an immune response to an antigenic challenge, such as in infection.

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