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J Biol Chem. 2006 Dec 15;281(50):38712-20. Epub 2006 Oct 17.

Monocyte differentiation, activation, and mycobacterial killing are linked to transsulfuration-dependent redox metabolism.

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Redox Biology Center and the Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0664, USA.


Modulation of the ambient redox status by mononuclear phagocytes is central to their role in health and disease. However, little is known about the mechanism of redox regulation during mononuclear phagocyte differentiation and activation, critical cellular steps in innate immunity, and microbial clearance. An important intermediate in GSH-based redox metabolism is homocysteine, which can undergo transmethylation via methionine synthase (MS) or transsulfuration via cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS). The transsulfuration pathway generates cysteine, the limiting reagent in GSH biosynthesis. We now demonstrate that expression of CBS and MS are strongly induced during differentiation of human monocytes and are regulated at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels, respectively. The changes in enzyme expression are paralleled by an approximately 150% increase in S-adenosylmethionine (accompanied by a corresponding increase in phospholipid methylation) and a similar increase in GSH. Activation with lipopolysachharide or infection with Mycobacterium smegmatis diminished expression of both enzymes to a significant extent and decreased S-adenosylmethionine concentration by approximately 30% of the control value while GSH and cysteine concentrations increased approximately 100 and 300%, respectively. Blockade of the transsulfuration pathway with propargylglycine suppressed clearance of M. smegmatis by macrophages and inhibited phagolysosomal fusion, whereas N-acetylcysteine promoted phagolysosomal fusion and enhanced mycobacterial clearance 3-fold compared with untreated cells. We posit that regulation of the transsulfuration pathway during monocyte differentiation, activation, and infection can boost host defense against invading pathogens and may represent a heretofore unrecognized antimicrobial therapeutic target.

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