Fatty acids (FAs) are important structural components of cell membranes, energy sources and precursors of eicosanoids. FAs can also act as second messengers and regulators of signal transduction. By these mechanisms, FAs play a significant physiological role in controlling cellular events such as growth, differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. It has been documented that oxidized fatty acids (OFAs), including eicosanoids, are biosynthesized and excreted in the form of glucuronides in pathological conditions in humans. The physiological function of glucuronidation of free fatty acids (FFAs) is less developed. However, the in vivo biosynthesis of glucuronides of FFAs has been confirmed by the identification of carboxyl-linked glucuronides of FFAs in human urine. As a major objective of this proposal, we will characterize FA glucuronidation in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and nuclear membranes in human tissues. The central hypothesis for this project is that FAs and their oxidixed derivatives are physiologically important substrates for human UGTs and glucuronidation plays a protective role against elevated levels of certain FAs. This research proposal will focus on the determination of the catalytic and molecular properties of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) of the UGT2B subfamily that glucuronidate OFAs and FFAs in humans.
Specific Aims 1 and 2 will characterize the catalytic properties of UGTs involved in FA glucuronidation. We will identify FAs that are substrates for human UGT isoforms. Substrate specificity and substrate-inhibitor interactions will be investigated. We will biosynthesize FA glucuronides and study their potential toxicity and their effect on the expression of UGTs in tissue cultures.
In Specific Aims 3 and 4, structure-function relationship studies will be performed. The structural domains of UGTs required for effective glucuronidation will be studied. Amino acid motifs localized in substrate binding sites or required for cellular targeting to the ER and nuclear membranes will be identified. Photoaffinity labeling studies with photoactive FAs will be carried out to identify amino acids involved in FA binding. Targeting of UGTs to ER and nuclear membranes will be investigated using green fluorescent protein fusions and immunofluorescence studies. Site-directed mutagenesis studies will confirm the importance of structural domains. The information obtained from our studies on FA glucuronidation will provide not only a rationale for understanding FA detoxification in response to elevated levels of various FAs but also information which can be used as important therapeutic strategies, such as the development of drugs targeting cardiovascular disease, inflammatory responses and cancer.
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