Methylmalonic Acid, a Biochemical Hallmark of Methylmalonic Acidurias but No Inhibitor of Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain

Stefan Kölker*, Marina Schwab, Friederike Hörster, Sven Sauer, Angela Hinz, Nicole I. Wolf, Ertan Mayatepek, Georg F. Hoffmann, Jan A.M. Smeitink, Jürgen G. Okun

*Corresponding author for this work

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Methylmalonic acidurias are biochemically characterized by an accumulation of methylmalonic acid and alternative metabolites. An impairment of energy metabolism plays a key role in the pathophysiology of this disease, resulting in neurodegeneration of the basal ganglia and renal failure. It has become the subject of intense debates whether methylmalonic acid is the major toxin, inhibiting respiratory chain complex II. To elucidate whether methylmalonic acid is a respiratory chain inhibitor, we used spectrophotometric analysis of complex II activity in submitochondrial particles from bovine heart, radiometric analysis of 14C-labeled substrates (pyruvate, malate, succinate), and analysis of ATP production in muscle from mice. Methylmalonic acid revealed no direct effects on the respiratory chain function, i.e. on single electron transferring complexes I-IV, ATPase, and mitochondrial transporters. However, we identified a variety of variables that must be carefully controlled to avoid an artificial inhibition of complex II activity. In summary, the study verifies our hypothesis that methylmalonic acid is not the major toxic metabolite in methylmalonic acidurias. Inhibition of respiratory chain and tricarboxylic acid cycle is most likely induced by synergistically acting alternative metabolites, in particular 2-methylcitric acid, malonic acid, and propionyl-CoA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47388-47393
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2003

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