Identification of the putative tumor suppressor Nit2 as ω-amidase, an enzyme metabolically linked to glutamine and asparagine transamination

Boris F. Krasnikov, Chin Hsiang Chien, Regina Nostramo, John T. Pinto, Edward Nieves, Myrasol Callaway, Jin Sun, Kay Huebner, Arthur J.L. Cooper

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44 Scopus citations


The present report identifies the enzymatic substrates of a member of the mammalian nitrilase-like (Nit) family. Nit2, which is widely distributed in nature, has been suggested to be a tumor suppressor protein. The protein was assumed to be an amidase based on sequence homology to other amidases and on the presence of a putative amidase-like active site. This assumption was recently confirmed by the publication of the crystal structure of mouse Nit2. However, the in vivo substrates were not previously identified. Here we report that rat liver Nit2 is ω-amidodicarboxylate amidohydrolase (E.C.; abbreviated ω-amidase), a ubiquitously expressed enzyme that catalyzes a variety of amidase, transamidase, esterase and transesterification reactions. The in vivo amidase substrates are α-ketoglutaramate and α-ketosuccinamate, generated by transamination of glutamine and asparagine, respectively. Glutamine transaminases serve to salvage a number of α-keto acids generated through non-specific transamination reactions (particularly those of the essential amino acids). Asparagine transamination appears to be useful in mitochondrial metabolism and in photorespiration. Glutamine transaminases play a particularly important role in transaminating α-keto-γ-methiolbutyrate, a key component of the methionine salvage pathway. Some evidence suggests that excess α-ketoglutaramate may be neurotoxic. Moreover, α-ketosuccinamate is unstable and is readily converted to a number of hetero-aromatic compounds that may be toxic. Thus, an important role of ω-amidase is to remove potentially toxic intermediates by converting α-ketoglutaramate and α-ketosuccinamate to biologically useful α-ketoglutarate and oxaloacetate, respectively. Despite its importance in nitrogen and sulfur metabolism, the biochemical significance of ω-amidase has been largely overlooked. Our report may provide clues regarding the nature of the biological amidase substrate(s) of Nit1 (another member of the Nit family), which is a well-established tumor suppressor protein), and emphasizes a) the crucial role of Nit2 in nitrogen and sulfur metabolism, and b) the possible link of Nit2 to cancer biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1080
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Glutamine transaminases
  • Methionine salvage pathway
  • Nit2
  • α-Ketoglutaramate
  • ω-Amidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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