Conserved N-terminal cysteine dioxygenases transduce responses to hypoxia in animals and plants

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Science  05 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6448, pp. 65-69
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw0112

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Oxygen sensing across kingdoms

The ability to sense and respond to changes in oxygen levels is critical for most forms of life. To date, mechanistic studies of this process in mammals have focused on the oxygen-sensitive stability of a transcription factor called hypoxia-inducible factor. Masson et al. discovered an enzymatic oxygen sensor in humans that is functionally identical to plant cysteine oxidases, enzymes that control responses to hypoxia in plants. The human and plant enzymes convert the N-terminal cysteine in substrate proteins to cysteine sulfinic acid, a modification that ultimately targets the proteins for degradation. Oxygen sensing is impaired in many human diseases, and further study of the human enzyme could help in the development of strategies for therapeutic intervention.

Science, this issue p. 65


Organisms must respond to hypoxia to preserve oxygen homeostasis. We identify a thiol oxidase, previously assigned as cysteamine (2-aminoethanethiol) dioxygenase (ADO), as a low oxygen affinity (high-KmO2) amino-terminal cysteine dioxygenase that transduces the oxygen-regulated stability of proteins by the N-degron pathway in human cells. ADO catalyzes the conversion of amino-terminal cysteine to cysteine sulfinic acid and is related to the plant cysteine oxidases that mediate responses to hypoxia by an identical posttranslational modification. We show in human cells that ADO regulates RGS4/5 (regulator of G protein signaling) N-degron substrates, modulates G protein–coupled calcium ion signals and mitogen-activated protein kinase activity, and that its activity extends to other N-cysteine proteins including the angiogenic cytokine interleukin-32. Identification of a conserved enzymatic oxygen sensor in multicellular eukaryotes opens routes to better understanding and therapeutic targeting of adaptive responses to hypoxia.

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