Cell death and mitochondrial dysfunction induced by the dietary non-proteinogenic amino acid l-azetidine-2-carboxylic acid (Aze)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Amino Acids, 2019, 51 (8), pp. 1221 - 1232
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© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature. In addition to the 20 protein amino acids that are vital to human health, hundreds of naturally occurring amino acids, known as non-proteinogenic amino acids (NPAAs), exist and can enter the human food chain. Some NPAAs are toxic through their ability to mimic protein amino acids and this property is utilised by NPAA-containing plants to inhibit the growth of other plants or kill herbivores. The NPAA l-azetidine-2-carboxylic acid (Aze) enters the food chain through the use of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) by-products as feed in the livestock industry and may also be found in sugar beet by-product fibre supplements. Aze mimics the protein amino acid l-proline and readily misincorporates into proteins. In light of this, we examined the toxicity of Aze to mammalian cells in vitro. We showed decreased viability in Aze-exposed cells with both apoptotic and necrotic cell death. This was accompanied by alterations in endosomal–lysosomal activity, changes to mitochondrial morphology and a significant decline in mitochondrial function. In summary, the results show that Aze exposure can lead to deleterious effects on human neuron-like cells and highlight the importance of monitoring human Aze consumption via the food chain.
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