Mechanisms of Non-coenzyme Action of Thiamine: Protein Targets and Medical Significance


Thiamine (vitamin B1) is a precursor of the well-known coenzyme of central metabolic pathways thiamine diphosphate (ThDP). Highly intense glucose oxidation in the brain requires ThDP-dependent enzymes, which determines the critical significance of thiamine for neuronal functions. However, thiamine can also act through the non-coenzyme mechanisms. The well-known facilitation of acetylcholinergic neurotransmission upon the thiamine and acetylcholine co-release into the synaptic cleft has been supported by the discovery of thiamine triphosphate (ThTP)-dependent phosphorylation of the acetylcholine receptor-associated protein rapsyn, and thiamine interaction with the TAS2R1 receptor, resulting in the activation of synaptic ion currents. The non-coenzyme regulatory binding of thiamine compounds has been demonstrated for the transcriptional regulator p53, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, prion protein PRNP, and a number of key metabolic enzymes that do not use ThDP as a coenzyme. The accumulated data indicate that the molecular mechanisms of the neurotropic action of thiamine are far broader than it has been originally believed, and closely linked to the metabolism of thiamine and its derivatives in animals. The significance of this topic has been illustrated by the recently established competition between thiamine and the antidiabetic drug metformin for common transporters, which can be the reason for the thiamine deficiency underlying metformin side effects. Here, we also discuss the medical implications of the research on thiamine, including the role of thiaminases in thiamine reutilization and biosynthesis of thiamine antagonists; molecular mechanisms of action of natural and synthetic thiamine antagonists, and biotransformation of pharmacological forms of thiamine. Given the wide medical application of thiamine and its synthetic forms, these aspects are of high importance for medicine and pharmacology, including the therapy of neurodegenerative diseases.

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adenylated thiamine diphosphate


adenylated thiamine triphosphate


2-oxo-glutarate dehydrogenase complex


poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase


pyruvate dehydrogenase complex


thiamine diphosphate


thiamine diphosphatase


thiamine monophosphate


thiamine monophosphatase


thiamine triphosphate


thiamine triphosphatase


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Correspondence to V. I. Bunik.

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Published in Russian in Biokhimiya, 2019, Vol. 84, No. 8, pp. 1051–1075.

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Aleshin, V.A., Mkrtchyan, G.V. & Bunik, V.I. Mechanisms of Non-coenzyme Action of Thiamine: Protein Targets and Medical Significance. Biochemistry Moscow 84, 829–850 (2019) doi:10.1134/S0006297919080017

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  • metformin
  • p53
  • serpin
  • thiamine
  • thiamine transport
  • thiaminase
  • vitamin B1