Mammalian phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) catalyses the conversion of L-phenylalanine to L-tyrosine in the presence of dioxygen and tetrahydrobiopterin; it is a highly regulated enzyme. Little is known about the rates of synthesis and degradation of PAH in vivo. The enzyme has been reported to have a half-life of approx. 2 days in rat liver and 7–8 h in rat hepatoma cells, but the mechanism of its degradation is not known. In the present study it is shown that the tetrameric form of the recombinant wild-type human enzyme is a substrate for the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme system in the cytosolic fraction of rat testis. Our findings support the conclusion that multi-/poly-ubiquitination of human PAH plays a key role in the turnover of this cytosolic liver enzyme and provides a mechanism for the increased turnover observed for a number of recombinant mutant forms of the enzyme related to the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria, when expressed in eukaryotic cells.

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