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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Dec 15;384(2):280-95.

Regulation of heme metabolism in rat hepatocytes and hepatocyte cell lines: delta-aminolevulinic acid synthase and heme oxygenase are regulated by different heme-dependent mechanisms.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey 17033, USA.


Regulation of delta-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) synthase and heme oxygenase was analyzed in primary rat hepatocytes and in two immortalized cell lines, CWSV16 and CWSV17 cells. ALA synthase was induced by 4,6-dioxohepatnoic acid (4,6-DHA), a specific inhibitor of ALA dehydratase, in all three systems; however, the induction in CWSV17 cells was greater than in either of the other two systems. Therefore, CWSV17 cells were used to explore the regulation of both enzymes by heme and 4,6-DHA. Data obtained from detailed concentration curves demonstrated that 4,6-DHA induced the activity of ALA synthase once ALA dehydratase activity became rate-limiting for heme biosynthesis. Heme induced heme oxygenase activity with increases occurring at concentrations of 10 microM or greater. Heme blocked the 4,6-DHA-dependent induction of ALA synthase with an EC50 of 1.25 microM. Heme-dependent decreases of ALA synthase mRNA levels occurred more quickly and at lower concentrations than heme-dependent increases of heme oxygenase mRNA levels. ALA synthase mRNA remained at reduced levels for extended periods of time, while the increases in heme oxygenase mRNA were much more transient. The drastic differences in concentrations and times at which heme-dependent effects were observed strongly suggest that two-different heme-dependent mechanisms control the ALA synthase and heme oxygenase mRNAs. In CWSV17 cells, heme decreased the stability of ALA synthase mRNA from 2.5 to 1.3 h, while 4,6-DHA increased the stability of the mRNA to 5.2 h. These studies demonstrate that regulation of ALA synthase mRNA levels by heme in a mammalian system is mediated by a change in ALA synthase mRNA stability. The results reported here demonstrate the function of the regulatory heme pool on both ALA synthase and heme oxygenase in a mammalian hepatocyte system.

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