Rare Catechol-O-methyltransferase Missense Variants Are Structurally Unstable Proteasome Targets

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Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is a key enzyme in the metabolism of catecholamines. Substrates of the enzyme include neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine, and therefore, COMT plays a central role in neurobiology. Since COMT also metabolizes catecholamine drugs such as L-DOPA, variation in COMT activity could affect pharmacokinetics and drug availability. Certain COMT missense variants have been shown to display decreased enzymatic activity. Additionally, studies have shown that such missense variants may lead to loss of function induced by impaired structural stability, which results in activation of the protein quality control system and degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Here, we demonstrate that two rare missense variants of COMT are ubiquitylated and targeted for proteasomal degradation as a result of structural destabilization and misfolding. This results in strongly reduced intracellular steady-state levels of the enzyme, which for the L135P variant is rescued upon binding to the COMT inhibitors entacapone and tolcapone. Our results reveal that the degradation is independent of the COMT isoform as both soluble (S-COMT) and ER membrane-bound (MB-COMT) variants are degraded. In silico structural stability predictions identify regions within the protein that are critical for stability overlapping with evolutionarily conserved residues, pointing toward other variants that are likely destabilized and degraded.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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