Mutations in homocysteine metabolism genes increase keratin N-homocysteinylation and damage in mice

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Genetic or nutritional deficiencies in homocysteine (Hcy) metabolism increase Hcy-thiolactone, which causes protein damage by forming isopetide bonds with lysine residues, generating N-Hcy-protein. In the present work, we studied the prevalence and genetic determinants of keratin damage caused by homocysteinylation. We found that in mammals and birds, 35 to 98% of Hcy was bound to hair keratin via amide or isopeptide bond (Hcy-keratin), while 2 to 65% was S-Hcy-keratin. A major fraction of hair Hcy-keratin (56% to 93%), significantly higher in birds than in mammals, was sodium dodecyl sulfate-insoluble. Genetic hyperhomocysteinemia significantly increased N-Hcy-keratin levels in the mouse pelage. N-Hcy-keratin was elevated 3.5-, 6.3-, and 11.7-fold in hair from Mthfr -/- , Cse -/- , or Cbs -/- mice, respectively. The accumulation of N-Hcy in hair keratin led to a progressive reduction of N-Hcy-keratin solubility in sodium dodecyl sulfate, from 0.39 ±0.04 in wild-type mice to 0.19 ±0.03, 0.14 ±0.01, and 0.07 ±0.03 in Mthfr -/- , Cse -/- , or Cbs -/- animals, respectively. N-Hcy-keratin accelerated aggregation of unmodified keratin in Cbs -/- mouse hair. Keratin methionine, copper, and iron levels in mouse hair were not affected by hyperhomocysteinemia. These findings provide evidence that pelage keratin is N-homocysteinylated in vivo in mammals and birds, and that this process causes keratin damage, manifested by a reduced solubility.




Borowczyk, K., Wróblewski, J., Suliburska, J., Akahoshi, N., Ishii, I., & Jakubowski, H. (2018). Mutations in homocysteine metabolism genes increase keratin N-homocysteinylation and damage in mice. International Journal of Genomics, 2018.

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