Biosynthesis of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid

  • Dieter Jahn
  • Dirk W. Heinz
Part of the Molecular Biology Intelligence Unit book series (MBIU)


5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is the general precursor of all known tetrapyrroles. Currently, two different biosynthetic routes for ALA formation are known. Humans, animals, fungi and the α-group of the proteobacteria employ the one-step-condensation of succinyl-coenzyme A and glycine catalyzed by pyridoxal 5′-phosphate-dependent ALA synthase. In plants, algae, archaea and all other bacteria ALA is formed by two enzymes. The initial substrate glutamyl-tRNA is synthesized by glutamyl-tRNA synthetase and supplied both to protein and to tetrapyrrole biosynthesis. During the first committed step of ALA synthesis a NADPH-dependent glutamyl-tRNA reductase reduces glutamyl-tRNA to form glutamate-1-semialdehyde. The aldehyde is subsequendy transaminated by glutamate-1-semialdehyde-2,1-aminomutase to yield ALA. Evidence for metabolic channeling of the reactive aldehyde between glutamyl-tRNA reductase and the aminomutase is outlined based on the structures of both enzymes. The enzymatic mechanisms deduced from biochemical investigations and recently solved crystal structures are described for all participating enzymes.


Hydride Transfer Tetrapyrrole Biosynthesis Puromycin Aminonucleoside External Aldimine Thioester Intermediate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Landes Bioscience and Springer Science+Business Media 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of MicrobiologyTechnical University BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  2. 2.Department of Structural BiologyGerman Research Center for BiotechnologyBraunschweigGermany

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