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Recently, zebrafish and human cytochrome P450 (P450) 27C1 enzymes have been shown to be retinoid 3,4-desaturases. The enzyme is unusual among mammalian P450s in that the predominant oxidation is a desaturation and in that hydroxylation represents only a minor pathway. We show by proteomic analysis that P450 27C1 is localized to human skin, with two proteins of different sizes present, one being a cleavage product of the full-length form. P450 27C1 oxidized all--retinol to 3,4-dehydroretinol, 4-hydroxy (OH) retinol, and 3-OH retinol in a 100:3:2 ratio. Neither 3-OH nor 4-OH retinol was an intermediate in desaturation. No kinetic burst was observed in the steady state; neither the rate of substrate binding nor product release was rate-limiting. Ferric P450 27C1 reduction by adrenodoxin was 3-fold faster in the presence of the substrate and was ∼5-fold faster than the overall turnover. Kinetic isotope effects of 1.5-2.3 (on / ) were observed with 3,3-, 4,4-, and 3,3,4,4-deuterated retinol. Deuteration at C-4 produced a 4-fold increase in 3-hydroxylation due to metabolic switching, with no observable effect on 4-hydroxylation. Deuteration at C-3 produced a strong kinetic isotope effect for 3-hydroxylation but not 4-hydroxylation. Analysis of the products of deuterated retinol showed a lack of scrambling of a putative allylic radical at C-3 and C-4. We conclude that the most likely catalytic mechanism begins with abstraction of a hydrogen atom from C-4 (or possibly C-3) initiating the desaturation pathway, followed by a sequential abstraction of a hydrogen atom or proton-coupled electron transfer. Adrenodoxin reduction and hydrogen abstraction both contribute to rate limitation.
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