Radical-SAM dependent nucleotide dehydratase (SAND), rectification of the names of an ancient iron-sulfur enzyme using NC-IUBMB recommendations

Yuxuan Ji, Li Wei, Anqi Da, Holger Stark, Peter-Leon Hagedoorn, Simone Ciofi-Baffoni, Sally A. Cowley, Ricardo O. Louro, Smilja Todorovic, Maria Andrea Mroginski, Yvain Nicolet, Maxie M. Roessler, Nick E. Le Brun, Mario Piccioli, William S. James, Wilfred R. Hagen, Kourosh H. Ebrahimi

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In 1789, the influential French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier described his view of science and its langague in his book Traité élémentaire de chimie. According to the Robert Kerr’s translation it states (Lavoisier, 1790): “As ideas are preserved and communicated by means of words, it necessarily follows that we cannot improve the language of any science without at the same time improving the science itself; neither can we, on the other hand, improve a science without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it.” This view reminds us of Confucius’s earlier doctrine, the rectification of names (Steinkraus, 1980; Lau, 2000). Confucius believed that rectification of names is imperative. He explained (Steinkraus, 1980; Lau, 2000): “If language is incorrect, then what is said does not concord with what was meant, what is to be done cannot be affected. If what is to be done cannot be affected, then rites and music will not flourish. If rites and music do not flourish, then mutilations and lesser punishments will go astray. And if mutilations and lesser punishments go astray, then the people have nowhere to put hand or foot. Therefore the gentleman uses only such language as is proper for speech, and only speaks of what it would be proper to carry into effect. The gentleman in what he says leaves nothing to mere chance.” Inspired by these views, we make the analogy that the progress of science and the language used to describe it are two entangled electrons. This entanglement highlights the importance of introducing systemic names for enzymes using EC classification and the ever-growing problem of protein names (McDonald and Tipton, 2021). Here, we tackle one specific case of iron-sulfur ([FeS]) enzymes. We show that the language used to describe a conserved [FeS] enzyme of the innate immune system, i.e., viperin or RSAD2, is now inadequate and disentangled from its science. We discuss that the enzyme has cellular functions beyond its antiviral activity and that eukaryotic and prokaryotic enzymes catalyse the same chemical reactions. To prevent bias towards antiviral activity while studying various biochemical activities of the enzyme and using scientifically incorrect terms like “prokaryotic viperins,” we rectify the language describing the enzyme. Based on NC-IUBMB recommendations, we introduce the nomenclature S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) dependent Nucleotide Dehydratase (SAND).
Original languageEnglish
Article number1032220
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • antiviral
  • dehydratase
  • innate immun system
  • iron-sulfur [FeS] cluster
  • nucleotide analogue

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