Cytotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction caused by the dietary supplement l-norvaline

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Toxicology in Vitro, 2019, 56 pp. 163 - 171
Issue Date:
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© 2019 In addition to the 20 protein amino acids that are encoded for protein synthesis, hundreds of other naturally occurring amino acids, known as non-proteinogenic amino acids (NPAAs) exist. It is well known that some NPAAs are toxic through their ability to mimic protein amino acids, either in protein synthesis or in other metabolic pathways, and this property is utilised by some plants to inhibit the growth of other plants or kill herbivores. L-norvaline is an NPAA readily available for purchase as a dietary supplement. In light of previous evidence of l-norvaline's antifungal, antimicrobial and herbicidal activity, we examined the toxicity of l-norvaline to mammalian cells in vitro and showed that l-norvaline decreased cell viability at concentrations as low as 125 μM, caused necrotic cell death and significant changes to mitochondrial morphology and function. Furthermore, toxicity was reduced in the presence of structurally similar ‘protein’ amino acids, suggesting l-norvaline's cytotoxicity could be attributed to protein amino acid mimicry.
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