Delivery of cytosolic liver arginase into the mitochondrial matrix space: A possible novel site for gene replacement therapy
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As a toxic metabolic byproduct in mammals, excess ammonia is converted into urea by a series of five enzymatic reactions in the liver that constitute the urea cycle. A portion of this cycle takes place in the mitochondria, while the remainder is cytosolic. Liver arginase (L-arginine ureahydrolase, AI) is the fifth enzyme of the cycle, catalyzing the hydrolysis of arginine to ornithine and urea within the cytosol. Patients deficient in this enzyme exhibit hyperargininemia with episodic hyperammonemia and long-term effects of mental retardation and spasticity. However, the hyperammonemic effects are not so catastrophic in arginase deficiency as compared to other urea cycle defects. Earlier studies have suggested that this is due to the mitigating effect of a second isozyme of arginase (AII) expressed predominantly in the kidney and localized within the mitochondria. In order to explore the curious dual evolution of these two isozymes, and the ways in which the intriguing aspects of AII physiology might be exploited for gene replacement therapy of AI deficiency, the cloned cDNA for human AI was inserted into an expression vector downstream from the mitochondrial targeting leader sequence for the mitochondrial enzyme ornithine transcarbamylase and transfected into a variety of recipient cell types. AI expression in the target cells was confirmed by northern blot analysis, and competition and immunoprecipitation studies showed successful translocation of the exogenous AI enzyme into the transfected cell mitochondria. Stability studies demonstrated that the translocated enzyme had a longer half-life than either native cytosolic AI or mitochondrial AII. Incubation of the transfected cells with increasing amounts of arginine produced enhanced levels of mitochondrial AI activity, a substrate-induced effect that we have previously seen with native AII but never AI. Along with exploring the basic biological questions of regulation and subcellular localization in this unique dual-enzyme system, these results suggest that the mitochondrial matrix space may be a preferred site for delivery of enzymes in gene replacement therapy.
KeywordsOrnithine Arginase Urea Cycle Ornithine Transcarbamylase Gene Replacement Therapy
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