Catalytic enzyme histochemistry and biochemical analysis of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase/oxidase and succinate dehydrogenase in mammalian tissues, cells and mitochondria

Histochem Cell Biol. 1996 Feb;105(2):119-28. doi: 10.1007/BF01696151.


Dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (EC or EC catalyzes the fourth sequential step in the de novo synthesis of uridine monophosphate. In eukaryotes it is located in the inner mitochondrial membrane, with ubiquinone as the proximal and cytochrome oxidase as the ultimate electron transfer system, whereas the rest of pyrimidine biosynthesis takes place in the cytosol. Here, the distribution of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase activity in cryostat sections of various rat tissues, and tissue samples of human skin and kidney, was visualized by light microscopy using the nitroblue tetrazolium technique. In addition, a hydrogen peroxide-producing oxidase side-reactivity of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase could be visualized by trapping the peroxide with cerium-diaminobenzidine. The pattern of activity was similar to that of succinate dehydrogenase, but revealed a less intensive staining. High activities of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase were found in tissues with known proliferative, regenerative, absorptive or excretory activities, e.g., mucosal cells of the ileum and colon crypts in the gastrointestinal tract, cultured Ehrlich ascites tumor cells, and proximal tubules of the kidney cortex, whilst lower activities were present in the periportal area of the liver, testis and spermatozoa, prostate and other glands, and skeletal muscle. Dihydroorotate dehydrogenase and succinate dehydrogenase activity in Ehrlich ascites tumor cells grown in suspension culture were quantified by application of nitroblue tetrazolium or cyanotolyl tetrazolium and subsequent extraction of the insoluble formazans with organic solvents. The ratio of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase to succinate dehydrogenase activity was 1:4. This was in accordance with that of 1:5 obtained from oxygen consumption measurement of isolated mitochondria on addition of dihydroorotate or succinate. The ratio determined with mitochondria from animal tissues was up to 1:15 (rat liver, bovine heart). The application of the enzyme inhibitors brequinar sodium and toltrazuril verified the specificity of the histochemical and biochemical methods applied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Ehrlich Tumor / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Cells / enzymology*
  • Dihydroorotate Oxidase / analysis*
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Histocytochemistry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Oxidoreductases / analysis*
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-CH Group Donors*
  • Pyrimidines / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / analysis*
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Swine


  • Pyrimidines
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-CH Group Donors
  • dihydroorotate dehydrogenase
  • Dihydroorotate Oxidase
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase