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J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 31;278(44):43178-87. Epub 2003 Aug 22.

Human mitochondrial C1-tetrahydrofolate synthase: gene structure, tissue distribution of the mRNA, and immunolocalization in Chinese hamster ovary calls.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712-0165, USA.


C1-tetrahydrofolate (THF) synthase is a trifunctional enzyme found in eukaryotes that contains the activities 10-formyl-THF synthetase, 5,10-methenyl-THF cyclohydrolase, and 5,10-methylene-THF dehydrogenase. The cytoplasmic isozyme of C1-THF synthase is well characterized in a number of mammals, including humans; but a mitochondrial isozyme has been previously identified only in the yeast Saccharomyces. Here, we report the identification and characterization of the human gene encoding a functional mitochondrial C1-THF synthase. The gene spans 236 kilobase pairs on chromosome 6 and consists of 28 exons plus one alternative exon. The gene encodes a protein of 978 amino acids, including an N-terminal mitochondrial targeting sequence. The mitochondrial isozyme is 61% identical to the human cytoplasmic isozyme. Expression of the gene was detected in most human tissues, but transcripts were highest in placenta, thymus, and brain. Two mRNAs were detected, a 3.6-kb transcript and a 1.1-kb transcript, and both transcripts were observed in varying ratios in each tissue. The shorter transcript results from an alternative splicing event, where exon 7 is spliced to exon 8a instead of exon 8. Exon 8a is derived from an exonized Alu sequence, sharing no homology with exon 8 of the long transcript, and encodes just 15 amino acids followed by a stop codon and a polyadenylation signal. This short transcript potentially encodes a bifunctional enzyme lacking 10-formyl-THF synthetase activity. Both transcripts initiate at the same 5'-site, 107 nucleotides up-stream of the ATG start codon. The full-length (2934 bp) cDNA fused to a C-terminal V5 epitope tag was expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Immunoblots of subfractionated cells revealed a 107-kDa protein only in the mitochondrial fractions of these cells, confirming the mitochondrial localization of the protein. Yeast cells expressing the full-length human cDNA exhibited elevated 10-formyl-THF synthetase activity, confirming its identification as the human mitochondrial C1-THF synthase.

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