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Circ Res. 2010 Feb 5;106(2):328-36. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.109.210658. Epub 2009 Nov 19.

GTP cyclohydrolase I phosphorylation and interaction with GTP cyclohydrolase feedback regulatory protein provide novel regulation of endothelial tetrahydrobiopterin and nitric oxide.

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Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, 1639 Pierce Dr WMBR 319, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



GTP cyclohydrolase I (GTPCH-1) is the rate-limiting enzyme involved in de novo biosynthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH(4)), an essential cofactor for NO synthases and aromatic amino acid hydroxylases. GTPCH-1 undergoes negative feedback regulation by its end-product BH(4) via interaction with the GTP cyclohydrolase feedback regulatory protein (GFRP). Such a negative feedback mechanism should maintain cellular BH(4) levels within a very narrow range; however, we recently identified a phosphorylation site (S81) on human GTPCH-1 that markedly increases BH(4) production in response to laminar shear.


We sought to define how S81 phosphorylation alters GTPCH-1 enzyme activity and how this is modulated by GFRP.


Using prokaryotically expressed proteins, we found that the GTPCH-1 phospho-mimetic mutant (S81D) has increased enzyme activity, reduced binding to GFRP and resistance to inhibition by GFRP compared to wild-type GTPCH-1. Using small interfering RNA or overexpressing plasmids, GFRP was shown to modulate phosphorylation of GTPCH-1, BH(4) levels, and NO production in human endothelial cells. Laminar, but not oscillatory shear stress, caused dissociation of GTPCH-1 and GFRP, promoting GTPCH-1 phosphorylation. We also found that both GTPCH-1 phosphorylation and GFRP downregulation prevents endothelial NO synthase uncoupling in response to oscillatory shear. Finally oscillatory shear was associated with impaired GTPCH-1 phosphorylation and reduced BH(4) levels in vivo.


These studies provide a new mechanism for regulation of endothelial GTPCH-1 by its phosphorylation and interplay with GFRP. This mechanism allows for escape from GFRP negative feedback and permits large amounts of BH(4) to be produced in response to laminar shear stress.

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