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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Apr 22;407(4):627-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.03.059. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Polyisoprenoids - Secondary metabolites or physiologically important superlipids?

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Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, 5A Pawinskiego Street, 02-106 Warsaw, Poland.


The polyisoprenoid alcohols (dolichols and polyprenols) are found in all living organism, from bacteria to mammals. In animal and yeast cells polyisoprenoids are derived from the cytoplasmic mevalonate (MVA) pathway while in plants two biosynthetic pathways, the MVA and the plastidial methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway provide precursors for polyisoprenoid biosynthesis. The key enzymes of polyisoprenoid synthesis are cis-prenyltransferases (CTPs), responsible for construction of the long hydrocarbon skeleton. CPTs elongate a short all-trans precursor, oligoprenyl diphosphate, by sequential addition of the desired number of isopentenyl diphosphate molecules which results in formation of a stretch of cis units. Several genes encoding CPT have been cloned from bacteria, plants and mammals. Interestingly, in Arabidopsis, the tissue-specific expression of ten putative cis-prenyltransferases was observed. In contrast to polyisoprenoid phosphates serving as cofactors in the biosynthesis of glycoproteins, glucosyl phosphatidyl inositol (GPI) anchor or bacterial peptidoglycan, the biological importance of polyprenols and dolichols still remains a question of debate besides their function of reservoir of substrates for kinase. These extremely hydrophobic superlipids are postulated to be involved in intracellular traffic of proteins and in cellular defense against adverse environmental conditions. Recent publications show a direct link between the dolichol biosynthetic pathway and congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG). These discoveries highlighting the cellular significance of polyisoprenoids simultaneously establish the background for future pharmacological interventions. Our mini-review summarizes the results of recent studies on polyisoprenoids.

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