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Variants of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1 and 2 (IDH1/2) alter metabolism in cancer cells by catalyzing the NADPH-dependent reduction of 2-oxoglutate (2OG) to (2R)-hydroxyglutarate (2HG). However, it is unclear how derivatives of 2OG can affect cancer cell metabolism. Here, we used synthetic C3 and C4 alkylated 2OG derivatives to investigate the substrate selectivities of the most common cancer-associated IDH1 variant (R132H IDH1), of two cancer-associated IDH2 variants (R172K IDH2, R140Q IDH2), and of wildtype IDH1/2. Absorbance-based, NMR and electrochemical assays were employed to monitor wildtype IDH1/2 and IDH1/2 variant-catalyzed 2OG derivative turnover in the presence and absence of 2OG. Our results reveal that 2OG derivatives can serve as substrates of the investigated IDH1/2 variants, but not of wildtype IDH1/2, and have the potential to act as 2OG-competitive inhibitors. Kinetic parameters reveal that some 2OG derivatives, including the natural product 3-methyl-2OG, are equally or even more efficient IDH1/2 variant substrates compared to 2OG. Furthermore, NMR and mass spectrometry studies confirmed IDH1/2 variant-catalyzed production of alcohols in the cases of the 3-methyl-, 3-butyl-, and 3-benzyl-substituted 2OG derivatives; a crystal structure of 3-butyl-2OG with an IDH1 variant (R132C/S280F IDH1) reveals active site binding. The combined results highlight the potential for (i) IDH1/2 variant-catalyzed reduction of 2-oxoacids other than 2OG in cells, (ii) modulation of IDH1/2 variant activity by 2-oxoacid natural products, including some present in common foods, (iii) inhibition of IDH1/2 variants via active site binding rather than the established allosteric mode of inhibition, and (iv) possible use of IDH1/2 variants as biocatalysts.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date



(R)-2-hydroxyglutarate, 2-oxoacids, 2-oxoglutarate, 2HG, 2OG, IDH, Isocitrate dehydrogenase, acute myeloid leukemia, alternative substrates, cancer metabolism-related IDH mutations, epigenetics, α-ketoacids, α-ketoglutarate