5-Formyltetrahydrofolate is an inhibitory but well tolerated metabolite in Arabidopsis leaves.J Biol Chem. 2005 Jul 15; 280(28):26137-42.JB
5-Formyltetrahydrofolate (5-CHO-THF) is formed via a second catalytic activity of serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT) and strongly inhibits SHMT and other folate-dependent enzymes in vitro. The only enzyme known to metabolize 5-CHO-THF is 5-CHO-THF cycloligase (5-FCL), which catalyzes its conversion to 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate. Because 5-FCL is mitochondrial in plants and mitochondrial SHMT is central to photorespiration, we examined the impact of an insertional mutation in the Arabidopsis 5-FCL gene (At5g13050) under photorespiratory (30 and 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1)) and non-photorespiratory (3200 micromol of CO2 mol(-1)) conditions. The mutation had only mild visible effects at 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1), reducing growth rate by approximately 20% and delaying flowering by 1 week. However, the mutation doubled leaf 5-CHO-THF level under all conditions and, under photorespiratory conditions, quadrupled the pool of 10-formyl-/5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolates (which could not be distinguished analytically). At 370 micromol of CO2 mol(-1), the mitochondrial 5-CHO-THF pool was 8-fold larger in the mutant and contained most of the 5-CHO-THF in the leaf. In contrast, the buildup of 10-formyl-/5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolates was extramitochondrial. In photorespiratory conditions, leaf glycine levels were up to 46-fold higher in the mutant than in the wild type. Furthermore, when leaves were supplied with 5-CHO-THF, glycine accumulated in both wild type and mutant. These data establish that 5-CHO-THF can inhibit SHMT in vivo and thereby influence glycine pool size. However, the near-normal growth of the mutant shows that even exceptionally high 5-CHO-THF levels do not much affect fluxes through SHMT or any other folate-dependent reaction, i.e. that 5-CHO-THF is well tolerated in plants.