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Biochem J. 2004 Nov 15;384(Pt 1):139-48.

Spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferase-2 (SSAT2) acetylates thialysine and is not involved in polyamine metabolism.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, P.O. Box 850, Hershey, PA 17033, USA.


Spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT1) is a short-lived polyamine catabolic enzyme inducible by polyamines and polyamine analogues. Induction of SSAT1 plays an important role in polyamine homoeostasis, since the N1-acetylated polyamines can be excreted or oxidized by acetylpolyamine oxidase. We have purified a recombinant human acetyltransferase (SSAT2) that shares 45% identity and 61% homology with human SSAT1, but is only distally related to other known members of the GNAT (GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase) family. Like SSAT1, SSAT2 is widely expressed, but did not turn over rapidly, and levels were unaffected by treatments with polyamine analogues. Despite similarity in sequence to SSAT1, polyamines were found to be poor substrates of purified SSAT2, having K(m) values in the low millimolar range and kcat values of <0.01 s(-1). The kcat/K(m) values for spermine and spermidine for SSAT2 were <0.0003% those of SSAT1. Expression of SSAT2 in NIH-3T3 cells was not detrimental to growth, and did not reduce polyamine content or increase acetylpolyamines. These results indicate that SSAT2 is not a polyamine catabolic enzyme, and that polyamines are unlikely to be its natural intracellular substrates. A promising candidate for the physiological substrate of SSAT2 is thialysine [S-(2-aminoethyl)-L-cysteine], which is acetylated predominantly at the epsilon-amino group with K(m) and kcat values of 290 muM and 5.2 s(-1). Thialysine is a naturally occurring modified amino acid that can undergo metabolism to form cyclic ketimine derivatives found in the brain and as urinary metabolites, which can undergo further reaction to form antioxidants. SSAT2 should be renamed 'thialysine N(epsilon)-acetyltransferase', and may regulate this pathway.

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