Dichloroacetic acid (DCA), a common drinking-water contaminant, is hepatocarcinogenic in rats and mice, and is a therapeutic agent used clinically in the management of lactic acidosis. DCA is biotransformed to glyoxylic acid by glutathione-dependent cytosolic enzymes in vitro and is metabolized to glyoxylic acid in vivo. The enzymes that catalyse the oxygenation of DCA to glyoxylic acid have not, however, been identified or characterized. In the present investigation, an enzyme that catalyses the glutathione-dependent oxygenation of DCA was purified to homogeneity (587-fold) from rat liver cytosol. SDS/PAGE and HPLC gel-filtration chromatography showed that the purified enzyme had a molecular mass of 27–28 kDa. Sequence analysis showed that the N-terminus of the purified protein was blocked. An internal sequence of 30 amino acid residues was obtained that matched the recently discovered human glutathione transferase Zeta well [Board, Baker, Chelvanayagam and Jermiin (1997) Biochem. J. 328, 929–935]. Western-blot analysis showed that the purified rat-liver enzyme cross-reacted with rabbit antiserum raised against recombinant human glutathione transferase Zeta. The apparent Km and Vmax values of the purified enzyme with DCA as the variable substrate were 71.4 µM and 1334 nmol/min per mg of protein, respectively; the Km for glutathione was 59 µM. Both the purified rat-liver enzyme and the recombinant human enzyme showed high activity with DCA as the substrate. These results demonstrate that the glutathione-dependent oxygenation of DCA to glyoxylic acid is catalysed by a Zeta-class glutathione transferase.

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