The tripeptide glutathione (GSH) is implicated in various crucial physiological processes including redox buffering and protection against heavy metal toxicity. GSH is abundant in plants, with reported intracellular concentrations typically in the 1–10 mM range. Various aminotransferases can inadvertently transaminate the amino group of the γ-glutamyl moiety of GSH to produce deaminated glutathione (dGSH), a metabolite damage product. It was recently reported that an amidase known as Nit1 participates in dGSH breakdown in mammals and yeast. Plants have a hitherto uncharacterized homolog of the Nit1 amidase. We show that recombinant Arabidopsis Nit1 (At4g08790) has high and specific amidase activity towards dGSH. Ablating the Arabidopsis Nit1 gene causes a massive accumulation of dGSH and other marked changes to the metabolome. All plant Nit1 sequences examined had predicted plastidial targeting peptides with a potential second start codon whose use would eliminate the targeting peptide. In vitro transcription/translation assays show that both potential translation start codons in Arabidopsis Nit1 were used and confocal microscopy of Nit1–GFP fusions in plant cells confirmed both cytoplasmic and plastidial localization. Furthermore, we show that Arabidopsis enzymes present in leaf extracts convert GSH to dGSH at a rate of 2.8 pmol min−1 mg−1 in the presence of glyoxalate as an amino acceptor. Our data demonstrate that plants have a dGSH repair system that is directed to at least two cellular compartments via the use of alternative translation start sites.

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