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Keywords:

  • aldehyde dehydrogenase;
  • alkanals;
  • apocarotenoids;
  • carotenoid cleavage;
  • cyanobacteria

Oxidative cleavage of carotenoids and peroxidation of lipids lead to apocarotenals and aliphatic aldehydes called alkanals, which react with vitally important compounds, promoting cytotoxicity. Although many enzymes have been reported to deactivate alkanals by converting them into fatty acids, little is known about the mechanisms used to detoxify apocarotenals or the enzymes acting on them. Cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic organisms must cope with both classes of aldehydes. Here we report that the Synechocystis enzyme SynAlh1, encoded by the ORF slr0091, is an aldehyde dehydrogenase that mediates oxidation of both apocarotenals and alkanals into the corresponding acids. Using a crude lysate of SynAlh1-expressing Escherichia coli cells, we show that SynAlh1 converts a wide range of apocarotenals and alkanals, with a preference for apocarotenals with defined chain lengths. As suggested by in vitro incubations and using engineered retinal-forming E. coli cells, we found that retinal is not a substrate for SynAlh1, making involvement in Synechocystis retinoid metabolism unlikely. The transcript level of SynAlh1 is induced by high light and cold treatment, indicating a role in the stress response, and the corresponding gene is a constituent of a stress-related operon. The assumptions regarding the function of SynAlh are further supported by the surprisingly high homology to human and plant aldehyde dehydrogenase that have been assigned to aldehyde detoxification. SynAlh1 is the first aldehyde dehydrogenase that has been shown to form both apocarotenoic and fatty acids. This dual function suggests that its eukaryotic homologs may also be involved in apocarotenal metabolism, a function that has not been considered so far.