Mechanism-based inhibitors and both forward and reverse genetics have proved to be essential tools in revealing roles for specific enzymatic processes in cellular function. Here, we review experimental studies aimed at assessing the impact of OG (2-oxoglutarate) oxidative decarboxylation on basic cellular activities in a number of biological systems. After summarizing the catalytic and regulatory properties of the OGDHC (OG dehydrogenase complex), we describe the evidence that has been accrued on its cellular role. We demonstrate an essential role of this enzyme in metabolic control in a wide range of organisms. Targeting this enzyme in different cells and tissues, mainly by its specific inhibitors, effects changes in a number of basic functions, such as mitochondrial potential, tissue respiration, ROS (reactive oxygen species) production, nitrogen metabolism, glutamate signalling and survival, supporting the notion that the evolutionary conserved reaction of OG degradation is required for metabolic adaptation. In particular, regulation of OGDHC under stress conditions may be essential to overcome glutamate excitotoxicity in neurons or affect the wound response in plants. Thus, apart from its role in producing energy, the flux through OGDHC significantly affects nitrogen assimilation and amino acid metabolism, whereas the side reactions of OGDHC, such as ROS production and the carboligase reaction, have biological functions in signalling and glyoxylate utilization. Our current view on the role of OGDHC reaction in various processes within complex biological systems allows us a far greater fundamental understanding of metabolic regulation and also opens up new opportunities for us to address both biotechnological and medical challenges.

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