Properties and reactivity of the folic acid and folate photoproduct 6-formylpterin

Free Radic Biol Med. 2021 Aug 1:171:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2021.05.002. Epub 2021 May 11.


Folates (vitamin B9) are essential components of our diet and our gut microbiota. They are omnipresent in our cells and blood. Folates are necessary for DNA synthesis, methylation, and other vital bioprocesses. Folic acid (FA), as the synthetic form of folates, is largely found in supplements and fortified foods. FA and folate drugs are also extensively used as therapeutics. Therefore, we are continuously exposed to the pterin derivatives, and their photo-degradation products, such as 6-formylpterin (6-FPT) and pterin-6-carboxylic acid. During ultraviolet radiation, these two photolytic products generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) responsible for the cellular oxidative stress. 6-FPT can exhibit variable pro/anti-oxidative roles depending on the cell type and its environment (acting as a cell protector in normal cells, or as an enhancer of drug-induced cell death in cancer cells). The ROS-modulating capacity of 6-FPT is well-known, whereas its intrinsic reactivity has been much less investigated. Here, we have reviewed the properties of 6-FPT and highlighted its capacity to form covalent adducts with the ROS-scavenging drug edaravone (used to treat stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) as well as its implication in immune surveillance. 6-FPT and its analogue acetyl-6-FPT function as small molecule antigens, recognized by the major histocompatibility complex-related class I-like molecule, MR1, for presentation to mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. As modulators of the MR1/MAIT machinery, 6-FPT derivatives could play a significant immuno-regulatory role in different diseases. This brief review shed light on the multiple properties and cellular activities of 6-FPT, well beyond its primary ROS-generating activity.

Keywords: 6-formylpterin (PubChem CID: 135409352); Edaravone; Folate; Folic acid; Formylpterin; Immune surveillance; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Folic Acid*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Pterins
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Pterins
  • 2-amino-4-hydroxy-6-formylpteridine
  • Folic Acid