Alterations of methionine metabolism in hepatocarcinogenesis: the emergent role of glycine N-methyltransferase in liver injury

Authors Maria M. Simile, Gavinella Latte, Claudio F. Feo, Francesco Feo, Diego F. Calvisi, Rosa M. Pascale.


The methionine and folate cycles play a fundamental role in cell physiology and their alteration is involved in liver injury and hepatocarcinogenesis. Glycine N-methyltransferase is implicated in methyl group supply, DNA methylation, and nucleotide biosynthesis. It regulates the cellular S-adenosylmethionine/S-adenosylhomocysteine ratio and S-adenosylmethioninedependent methyl transfer reactions. Glycine N-methyltransferase is absent in fast-growing hepatocellular carcinomas and present at a low level in slower growing HCC ones. The mechanism of tumor suppression by glycine N-methyltransferase is not completely known. Glycine N-methyltransferase inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma growth through interaction with Dep domain-containing mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTor)-interacting protein, a binding protein overexpressed in hepatocellular carcinoma. The interaction of the phosphatase and tensin homolog inhibitor, phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate-dependent rac exchanger, with glycine N-methyltransferase enhances proteasomal degradation of this exchanger by the E3 ubiquitin ligase HectH. Glycine N-methyltransferase also regulates genes related to detoxification and antioxidation pathways. It supports pyrimidine and purine syntheses and minimizes uracil incorporation into DNA as consequence of folate depletion. However, recent evidence indicates that glycine N-methyltransferase targeted into nucleus still exerts strong anti-proliferative effects independent of its catalytic activity, while its restriction to cytoplasm prevents these effects. Our current knowledge suggest that glycine N-methyltransferase plays a fundamental, even if not yet completely known, role in cellular physiology and highlights the need to further investigate this role in normal and cancer cells.

Keywords Hepatocellular carcinoma, Methionine cycle, Folate cycle, tumor suppression, S-adenosylmethionine

Ann Gastroenterol 2018; 31 (5): 552-560

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