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Hum Mol Genet. 2014 May 1;23(9):2313-23. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt624. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

CLYBL is a polymorphic human enzyme with malate synthase and β-methylmalate synthase activity.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


CLYBL is a human mitochondrial enzyme of unknown function that is found in multiple eukaryotic taxa and conserved to bacteria. The protein is expressed in the mitochondria of all mammalian organs, with highest expression in brown fat and kidney. Approximately 5% of all humans harbor a premature stop polymorphism in CLYBL that has been associated with reduced levels of circulating vitamin B12. Using comparative genomics, we now show that CLYBL is strongly co-expressed with and co-evolved specifically with other components of the mitochondrial B12 pathway. We confirm that the premature stop polymorphism in CLYBL leads to a loss of protein expression. To elucidate the molecular function of CLYBL, we used comparative operon analysis, structural modeling and enzyme kinetics. We report that CLYBL encodes a malate/β-methylmalate synthase, converting glyoxylate and acetyl-CoA to malate, or glyoxylate and propionyl-CoA to β-methylmalate. Malate synthases are best known for their established role in the glyoxylate shunt of plants and lower organisms and are traditionally described as not occurring in humans. The broader role of a malate/β-methylmalate synthase in human physiology and its mechanistic link to vitamin B12 metabolism remain unknown.

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