The first two steps of urea synthesis in liver of marine elasmobranchs involve formation of glutamine from ammonia and of carbamoyl phosphate from glutamine, catalysed by glutamine synthetase and carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase, respectively [Anderson & Casey (1984) J. Biol. Chem. 259, 456-462]; both of these enzymes are localized exclusively in the mitochondrial matrix. The objective of this study was to establish the enzymology of carbamoyl phosphate formation and utilization for pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthesis in Squalus acanthias (spiny dogfish), a representative elasmobranch. Aspartate carbamoyltransferase could not be detected in liver of dogfish. Spleen extracts, however, had glutamine-dependent carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase, aspartate carbamoyltransferase, dihydro-orotase, and glutamine synthetase activities, all localized in the cytosol; dihydro-orotate dehydrogenase, orotate phosphoribosyltransferase, and orotidine-5′-decarboxylase activities were also present. Except for glutamine synthetase, the levels of all activities were very low. The carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase activity is inhibited by UTP and is activated by 5-phosphoribosyl 1-pyrophosphate. The first three enzyme activities of the pyrimidine pathway were eluted in distinctly different positions during gel filtration chromatography under a number of different conditions; although complete proteolysis of inter-domain regions of a multifunctional complex during extraction cannot be excluded, the evidence suggests that in dogfish, in contrast to mammalian species, these three enzymes of the pyrimidine pathway exist as individual polypeptide chains. These results: (1) establish that dogfish express two different glutamine-dependent carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase activities, (2) confirm the report [Smith, Ritter & Campbell (1987) J. Biol. Chem. 262, 198-202] that dogfish express two different glutamine synthetases, and (3) provide indirect evidence that glutamine may not be available in liver for biosynthetic reactions other than urea formation.

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