Evidence for the involvement of tetrahydrofolate in the demethylation of nicotine by Nicotiana plumbaginifolia cell-suspension cultures.
Mesnard F., Roscher A., Garlick AP., Girard S., Baguet E., Arroo RRJ., Lebreton J., Robins RJ., Ratcliffe G.
The conversion of nicotine to nornicotine by Nicotiana plumbaginifolia Viv. cells was investigated by analysing the redistribution of label during feeding experiments with (R,S)-[2H- methyl]nicotine, (R,S)-[13C- methyl]nicotine and (R,S)-[14C- methyl]nicotine, and the results show that the N-methyl group of nicotine can be recycled into primary metabolism. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis of ethanolic extracts of cells grown in the presence of (R,S)-[13C- methyl]nicotine, using 1H-13C correlation spectroscopy (HMQC, HMBC), revealed the presence of [3-13C]serine and [13C- methyl]methionine. Label was also identified in a cysteinyl derivative and in several methoxylated compounds, but no evidence was obtained with either NMR or ion-trap mass spectrometry for the presence of any intermediate between nicotine and nornicotine. However, experiments with (R,S)-[14C- methyl]nicotine indicated that 70-75% of the metabolised label was released as carbon dioxide. These results are consistent with a pathway in which the oxidative hydrolysis of the nicotine methyl produces an unstable intermediate, N'-hydroxymethylnornicotine, that breaks down spontaneously to nornicotine and formaldehyde, with the formaldehyde being metabolised either directly to formate and carbon dioxide, or through the tetrahydrofolate-mediated pathways of one-carbon metabolism. However since the key intermediate, N-hydroxymethylnornicotine, could not be detected, the possibility of a direct methyl group transfer to tetrahydrofolate cannot be excluded.