Characterization of equine GST A3-3 as a steroid isomerase.
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Glutathione transferases (GSTs) comprise a superfamily of enzymes prominently involved in detoxication by making toxic electrophiles more polar and therefore more easily excretable. However some GSTs have developed alternative functions. Thus, a member of the Alpha class GSTs in pig and human tissues is involved in steroid hormone biosynthesis, catalyzing the obligatory double-bond isomerization of 5-androstene-3,17-dione to 4-androstene-3,17-dione and of 5-pregnene-3,20-dione to 4-pregnene-3,20-dione on the biosynthetic pathways to testosterone and progesterone. The human GST A3-3 is the most efficient steroid double-bond isomerase known so far in mammals. The current work extends discoveries of GST enzymes that act in the steroidogenic pathways in large mammals. The mRNA encoding the steroid isomerase GST A3-3 was cloned from testis of the horse (Equus ferus caballus). The concentrations of GSTA3 mRNA were highest in hormone-producing organs such as ovary, testis and adrenal gland. EcaGST A3-3 produced in E. coli has been characterized and shown to have highly efficient steroid double-bond isomerase activity, exceeding its activities with conventional GST substrates. The enzyme now ranks as one of the most efficient steroid isomerases known in mammals and approaches the activity of the bacterial ketosteroid isomerase, one of the most efficient enzymes of all categories known today. The high efficiency and the tissue distribution of EcaGST A3-3 support the view that the enzyme plays a physiologically significant role in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones.