In in vitro experiments, prenylcysteine lyase (Pcly) cleaves the thioether bond of prenylcysteines to yield free cysteine and the aldehyde of the isoprenoid lipid. However, the importance of this enzyme has not yet been fully defined at the biochemical or physiologic level. In this study, we show that Pcly is expressed at high levels in mouse liver, kidney, heart, and brain. To test whether Pcly deficiency would cause prenylcysteines to accumulate in tissues and result in pathologic consequences, we produced Pcly-deficient cell lines and Pcly-deficient mice (Pcly-/-). Pcly activity levels were markedly reduced in Pcly-/- cells and tissues. Pcly-/-fibroblasts were more sensitive than wild-type fibroblasts to growth inhibition when prenylcysteines were added to the cell culture medium. To determine if the reduced Pcly enzyme activity levels led to an accumulation of prenylcysteines within cells, mass spectrometry was used to measure farnesylcysteine and geranylgeranylcysteine levels in the tissues of Pcly-/- mice and wild-type controls. These studies revealed a striking accumulation of both farnesylcysteine and geranylgeranylcysteine in the brain and liver of Pcly-/- mice. This accumulation did not appear to be accompanied by significant pathologic consequences. Pcly-/- mice were healthy and fertile, and surveys of more than 30 tissues did not uncover any abnormalities. We conclude that prenylcysteine lyase does play a physiologic role in cleaving prenylcysteines in mammals, but the absence of this activity does not lead to major pathologic consequences.
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