Glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT) protein is highly expressed in certain tissues, such as liver, pancreas, and prostate. GNMT serves multiple roles which include a methyl group transfer enzyme and a liver tumor suppressor. Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a family member of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), is a known environmental carcinogen found in coal tar, tobacco smoke, barbecued food and incomplete combustion of auto fuel. BaP recruits cytochrome P450 to transform itself into benzo(a)pyrene-7,8-diol-9,10-epoxide (B(a)PDE), which covalently interacts with DNA causing tumorigenesis. BaP can be detoxified through GNMT and induces GNMT translocation into the cellular nucleus. GNMT translocation is accompanied by phosphorylation, but the role of phosphorylation in GNMT remains to be explored. Using liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry, this study identified serine 9 of GNMT as the phosphorylation site upon BaP treatment. When serine 9 was mutated and lost the capability to be phosphorylated, the occurrence of BaP-induced GNMT nuclear translocation was dramatically decreased. Also, this mutant from of GNMT lost the ability of phosphorylation and increased cytochrome P450 1A1 (Cyp1a) expression upon BaP treatment. In addition, protein kinase C (PKC) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) may be required for such phosphorylation. Further characterization of phosphorylated GNMT for its link to BaP may bring new insights into chemical detoxification.
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