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The metabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG) can be produced as either a D(R)- or L(S)- enantiomer, each of which inhibits alpha-ketoglutarate (αKG)-dependent enzymes involved in diverse biologic processes. Oncogenic mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase produce D-2HG, which causes a pathologic blockade in cell differentiation. On the other hand, oxygen limitation leads to accumulation of L-2HG, which can facilitate physiologic adaptation to hypoxic stress in both normal and malignant cells. Here we demonstrate that purified lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and malate dehydrogenase (MDH) catalyze stereospecific production of L-2HG via ‘promiscuous’ reduction of the alternative substrate αKG. Acidic pH enhances production of L-2HG by promoting a protonated form of αKG that binds to a key residue in the substrate-binding pocket of LDHA. Acid-enhanced production of L-2HG leads to stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) in normoxia. These findings offer insights into mechanisms whereby microenvironmental factors influence production of metabolites that alter cell fate and function.


This article was originally published in Nature Chemical Biology, available at doi:10.1038/nchembio.2307.

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