Tetrahydrobiopterin (H4-biopterin) is an essential cofactor of a set of enzymes that are of central metabolic importance, i.e. the hydroxylases of the three aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan, of ether lipid oxidase, and of the three nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoenzymes. As a consequence, H4-biopterin plays a key role in a vast number of biological processes and pathological states associated with neurotransmitter formation, vasorelaxation, and immune response. In mammals, its biosynthesis is controlled by hormones, cytokines and certain immune stimuli. This review aims to summarize recent developments concerning regulation of H4-biopterin biosynthetic and regulatory enzymes and pharmacological effects of H4-biopterin in various conditions, e.g. endothelial dysfunction or apoptosis of neuronal cells. Also, approaches towards gene therapy of diseases like the different forms of phenylketonuria or of Parkinsons disease are reviewed. Additional emphasis is given to H4-biopt erin biosynthesis and function in non-mammalian species such as fruit fly, zebra fish, fungi, slime molds, the bacterium Nocardia as well as to the parasitic protozoan genus of Leishmania that is not capable of pteridine biosynthesis but has evolved a sophisticated salvage network for scavenging various pteridine compounds, notably folate and biopterin.
Keywords: Tetrahydrobiopterin biosynthesis, Nitric oxide synthase(nos), leishmania, H-biopterin deficiencies, Primitive eukaryotes, Physarum polycephalum, Sepiapterin reductase, Dihydro pteridine reductase
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