CUG start codon generates thioredoxin/glutathione reductase isoforms in mouse testes

J Biol Chem. 2010 Feb 12;285(7):4595-602. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.070532. Epub 2009 Dec 14.


Mammalian cytosolic and mitochondrial thioredoxin reductases are essential selenocysteine-containing enzymes that control thioredoxin functions. Thioredoxin/glutathione reductase (TGR) is a third member of this enzyme family. It has an additional glutaredoxin domain and shows highest expression in testes. Herein, we found that human and several other mammalian TGR genes lack any AUG codons that could function in translation initiation. Although mouse and rat TGRs have such codons, we detected protein sequences upstream of them by immunoblot assays and direct proteomic analyses. Further gene engineering and expression analyses demonstrated that a CUG codon, located upstream of the sequences previously thought to initiate translation, is the actual start codon in mouse TGR. The use of this codon relies on the Kozak consensus sequence and ribosome-scanning mechanism. However, CUG serves as an inefficient start codon that allows downstream initiation, thus generating two isoforms of the enzyme in vivo and in vitro. The use of CUG evolved in mammalian TGRs, and in some of these organisms, GUG is used instead. The newly discovered longer TGR form shows cytosolic localization in cultured cells and is expressed in spermatids in mouse testes. This study shows that CUG codon is used as an inefficient start codon to generate protein isoforms in mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Codon, Initiator / genetics
  • Codon, Initiator / physiology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multienzyme Complexes / chemistry
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / chemistry
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Rats
  • Seminiferous Epithelium / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Testis / enzymology*


  • Codon, Initiator
  • Isoenzymes
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • thioredoxin glutathione reductase