Development of an activity assay for characterizing deoxyhypusine synthase and its diverse reaction products

Deoxyhypusine synthase transfers an aminobutyl moiety from spermidine to the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A (eIF5A) in the first step of eIF5A activation. This exclusive post-translational modification is conserved in all eukaryotes. Activated eIF5A has been shown to be essential for cell proliferation and viability. Recent reports have linked the activation of eIF5A to several human diseases. Deoxyhypusine synthase, which is encoded by a single gene copy in most eukaryotes, was duplicated in several plant lineages during evolution, the copies being repeatedly recruited to pyrrolizidine alkaloid biosynthesis. However, the function of many of these duplicates is unknown. Notably, deoxyhypusine synthase is highly promiscuous and can catalyze various reactions, often of unknown biological relevance. To facilitate in-depth biochemical studies of this enzyme, we report here the development of a simple and robust in vitro enzyme assay. It involves precolumn derivatization of the polyamines taking part in the reaction and avoids the need for the previously used radioactively labeled tracers. The derivatized polyamines are quantified after high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to diode array and fluorescence detectors. By performing kinetic analyses of deoxyhypusine synthase and its paralog from the pyrrolizidine alkaloid-producing plant Senecio vernalis, we demonstrate that the assay unequivocally differentiates the paralogous enzymes. Furthermore, it detects and quantifies, in a single assay, the side reactions that occur in parallel to the main reaction. The presented assay thus provides a detailed biochemical characterization of deoxyhypusine synthase and its paralogs.


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