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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 13;108(37):15157-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103605108. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

The former annotated human pseudogene dihydrofolate reductase-like 1 (DHFRL1) is expressed and functional.

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  • 1School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland.


Human dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) was previously thought to be the only enzyme capable of the reduction of dihydrofolate to tetrahydrofolate; an essential reaction necessary to ensure a continuous supply of biologically active folate. DHFR has been studied extensively from a number of perspectives because of its role in health and disease. Although the presence of a number of intronless DHFR pseudogenes has been known since the 1980s, it was assumed that none of these were expressed or functional. We show that humans do have a second dihydrofolate reductase enzyme encoded by the former pseudogene DHFRP4, located on chromosome 3. We demonstrate that the DHFRP4, or dihydrofolate reductase-like 1 (DHFRL1), gene is expressed and shares some commonalities with DHFR. Recombinant DHFRL1 can complement a DHFR-negative phenotype in bacterial and mammalian cells but has a lower specific activity than DHFR. The K(m) for NADPH is similar for both enzymes but DHFRL1 has a higher K(m) for dihydrofolate when compared to DHFR. The need for a second reductase with lowered affinity for its substrate may fulfill a specific cellular requirement. The localization of DHFRL1 to the mitochondria, as demonstrated by confocal microscopy, indicates that mitochondrial dihydrofolate reductase activity may be optimal with a lowered affinity for dihydrofolate. We also found that DHFRL1 is capable of the same translational autoregulation as DHFR by binding to its own mRNA; with each enzyme also capable of replacing the other. The identification of DHFRL1 will have implications for previous research involving DHFR.

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