The vitamin biotin is an essential nutrient for the metabolism and survival of all organisms owing to its function as a cofactor of enzymes collectively known as biotin-dependent carboxylases. These enzymes use covalently attached biotin as a vector to transfer a carboxyl group between donor and acceptor molecules during carboxylation reactions. In human cells, biotin-dependent carboxylases catalyze key reactions in gluconeogenesis, fatty acid synthesis, and amino acid catabolism. Biotin is attached to apocarboxylases by a biotin ligase: holocarboxylase synthetase (HCS) in mammalian cells and BirA in microbes. Despite their evolutionary distance, these proteins share structural and sequence similarities, underscoring their importance across all life forms. However, beyond its role in metabolism, HCS participates in the regulation of biotin utilization and acts as a nuclear transcriptional coregulator of gene expression. In this review, we discuss the function of HCS and biotin in metabolism and human disease, a putative role for the enzyme in histone biotinylation, and its participation as a nuclear factor in chromatin dynamics. We suggest that HCS be classified as a moonlighting protein, with two biotin-dependent cytosolic metabolic roles and a distinct biotin-independent nuclear coregulatory function.


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