We previously showed that human liver hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) lyase (HL; EC is found in both mitochondria and peroxisomes. HL contains a 27-residue N-terminal mitochondrial targeting sequence which is cleaved on mitochondrial entry, as well as a C-terminal Cys-Lys-Leu peroxisomal targeting motif. Because peroxisomal HL has a greater molecular mass and more basic pI value than mitochondrial HL, we predicted that peroxisomal HL retains the mitochondrial leader. To test this hypothesis, we expressed both the precursor (pHL) and mature (mHL) peptides in Escherichia coli and studied their properties. pHL purified by ion-exchange and hydrophobic chromatography had a pI of 7.6 on FPLC chromatofocusing and a molecular mass of 34.5 kDa on SDS/PAGE, similar to our findings for peroxisomal HL. For purified mHL, pI (6.2) and molecular mass (32 kDa) values resemble those of mitochondrial HL. Purified pHL is similar to mHL in Km for HMG-CoA (44.8 μM), kcat (6.3 min-1) and pH optimum (9.0–9.5). However, the quaternary structures of pHL and mHL differ. On Superose 12 FPLC gel filtration and also on ultrafiltration, both in the presence and in the absence of HMG-CoA, pHL behaves as a monomer whereas mHL migrates as a dimer. We conclude that the HL precursor is probably identical to peroxisomal HL, that its catalytic properties resemble those of mature mitochondrial HL, and that the mitochondrial leader peptide prevents dimerization of pHL.

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