Metabolite damage and its repair or pre-emption

Nat Chem Biol. 2013 Feb;9(2):72-80. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1141.


It is increasingly evident that metabolites suffer various kinds of damage, that such damage happens in all organisms and that cells have dedicated systems for damage repair and containment. First, chemical biology is demonstrating that diverse metabolites are damaged by side reactions of 'promiscuous' enzymes or by spontaneous chemical reactions, that the products are useless or toxic and that the unchecked buildup of these products can be devastating. Second, genetic and genomic evidence from prokaryotes and eukaryotes is implicating a network of new, conserved enzymes that repair damaged metabolites or somehow pre-empt damage. Metabolite (that is, small-molecule) repair is analogous to macromolecule (DNA and protein) repair and seems from comparative genomic evidence to be equally widespread. Comparative genomics also implies that metabolite repair could be the function of many conserved protein families lacking known activities. How--and how well--cells deal with metabolite damage affects fields ranging from medical genetics to metabolic engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Phenotype
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Proteins