Oxygen and Conformation Dependent Protein Oxidation and Aggregation by Porphyrins in Hepatocytes and Light-Exposed Cells

D Maitra, EL Carter, R Richardson, L Rittie, V Basrur, HM Zhang, AI Nesvizhskii, Y Osawa, MW Wolf, SW Ragsdale, N Lehnert, H Herrmann, Bishr Omary

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Porphyrias are genetic diseases caused by disruption of heme biosynthesis and accumulation of toxic porphyrins. Porphyrias cause liver damage, photosensitivity, and neurovisceral symptoms. We define the mechanism of porphyrin-mediated protein aggregation and its role in porphyrin-induced cell damage.BACKGROUND & AIMS: Porphyrias are caused by porphyrin accumulation resulting from defects in the heme biosynthetic pathway that typically lead to photosensitivity and possible end-stage liver disease with an increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Our aims were to study the mechanism of porphyrin-induced cell damage and protein aggregation, including liver injury, where light exposure is absent.METHODS: Porphyria was induced in vivo in mice using 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine or in vitro by exposing human liver Huh7 cells and keratinocytes, or their lysates, to protoporphyrin-IX, other porphyrins, or to delta-aminolevulinic acid plus deferoxamine. The livers, cultured cells, or porphyrin exposed purified proteins were analyzed for protein aggregation and oxidation using immunoblotting, mass spectrometry, and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. Consequences on cell-cycle progression were assessed.RESULTS: Porphyrin-mediated protein aggregation required porphyrin-photosensitized singlet oxygen and porphyrin carboxylate side-chain deprotonation, and occurred with site-selective native protein methionine oxidation. Noncovalent interaction of protoporphyrin-IX with oxidized proteins led to protein aggregation that was reversed by incubation with acidified n-butanol or high-salt buffer. Phototoxicity and the ensuing proteotoxicity, mimicking porphyria photosensitivity conditions, were validated in cultured keratinocytes. Protoporphyrin-IX inhibited proteasome function by aggregating several proteasomal subunits, and caused cell growth arrest and aggregation of key cell proliferation proteins. Light-independent synergy of protein aggregation was observed when porphyrin was applied together with glucose oxidase as a secondary peroxide source.CONCLUSIONS: Photo-excitable porphyrins with deprotonated carboxylates mediate protein aggregation. Porphyrin-mediated proteotoxicity in the absence of light, as in the liver, requires porphyrin accumulation coupled with a second tissue oxidative injury. These findings provide a potential mechanism for internal organ damage and photosensitivity in porphyrias.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)659–682
Number of pages25
JournalCellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Porphyria
  • Amino Acid Oxidation
  • phototoxicity

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