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Mol Cell Biochem. 2015 Feb;400(1-2):125-33. doi: 10.1007/s11010-014-2268-z. Epub 2014 Nov 9.

Sphingosine 1-phosphate lyase inhibition by 2-acetyl-4-(tetrahydroxybutyl)imidazole (THI) under conditions of vitamin B6 deficiency.

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New Modality Research Laboratories, R&D Division, Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd., 1-2-58 Hiromachi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 140-8710, Japan,


Caramel food colorant 2-acetyl-4-(tetrahydroxybutyl)imidazole (THI) causes lymphopenia in animals through sphingosine 1-phosphate lyase (SPL) inhibition. However, this mechanism of action is partly still controversial because THI did not inhibit SPL in vitro either in cell-free or in cell-based systems. It is thought that the in vitro experimental conditions which have been used so far were not suitable for the evaluation of SPL inhibition, especially in case of cell-based experiments. We speculated that the key factor might be the coenzyme pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP), an active form of vitamin B6 (VB6), because media used in cell-based assays usually contain an excess amount of VB6 which leads to the activation of SPL. By the use of VB6-deficient culture medium, we could regulate apo- (without PLP) and holo- (with PLP) SPL enzyme in cultured cells, resulting in the successful detection of SPL inhibition by THI. Although the observed inhibitory effect was not as strong as that of 4-deoxypyridoxine (a VB6 analog SPL inhibitor), these findings may be useful for further understanding the mechanism of action of THI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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