As an essential amino acid, threonine is not synthesized in humans and must be obtained from either the diet or from intestinal microflora. In humans, threonine is converted to 2-oxobutanoate via serine dehydratase, and thereby enters the pathway leading to succinyl-CoA. This is the major route for threonine degradation in humans.
2-oxobutanoate, also known as 2-Ketobutyric acid, is a 2-keto acid that is commonly produced in the metabolism of amino acids such as methionine and threonine. Like other 2-keto acids, degradation of 2-oxobutanoate occurs in the mitochondrial matrix and begins with oxidative decarboxylation to its acyl coenzyme A derivative, propionyl-CoA. This reaction is mediated by a class of large, multienzyme complexes called 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complexes. While no 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complex is specific to 2-oxobutanoate, numerous complexes can catalyze its reaction. In this pathway the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex is depicted. All 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complexes consist of three main components: a 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase (E1) with a thiamine pyrophosphate cofactor, a dihydrolipoamide acyltransferase (E2) with a lipoate cofactor, and a dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (E3) with a flavin cofactor. E1 binds the 2-oxobutanoate to the lipoate on E2, which then transfers the propionyl group to coenzyme A, producing propionyl-CoA and reducing the lipoate. E3 then transfers protons to NAD in order to restore the lipoate. Propionyl-CoA carboxylase transforms the propionyl-CoA to S-methylmalonyl-CoA, which is then converted to R-methylmalonyl-CoA via methylmalonyl-CoA epimerase. In the final step, methylmalonyl-CoA mutase acts on the R-methylmalonyl-CoA to produce succinyl-CoA.
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