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Free Radic Biol Med. 1992;12(1):53-62.

Inhibition of glutathione reductase activity by a carbamoylating nitrosourea: effect on cellular radiosensitivity.

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  • 1Radiation Biochemistry Department, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD 20889-5145.


Nitrosoureas inactivate cellular glutathione reductase. N,'N'1,3-bis(trans-4-hydroxycyclohexyl)-N'-nitrosoureas (BCyNU), a nitrosourea reported to selectively inhibit glutathione reductase (GR) activity, was examined to determine if it could be used as a means to inhibit cellular levels of this enzyme in radiobiology studies. Confirmation of drug-induced inhibition of GR activity was demonstrated using a cell-free model system employing purified GR. Cellular studies with Chinese hamster V79A03 showed that BCyNU decreased cellular glutathione content concomitant with an inhibition of specific GR activity. Under relatively nontoxic conditions, cellular exposure to BCyNU (25 microM, 0.25 h) either before or after radiation treatment, increased cellular radiosensitivity with the optimum time for drug addition being immediately following radiation. At a BCyNU dosage which produced less than or equal to 5% cell toxicity, a marked decrease in radioresistance was characterized as a reduction in both Dq (24 +/- 1.5%) and Do (8 +/- 0.5%) concomitant with a 25 +/- 2% decrease in cellular glutathione reductase (GR) activity. At cytotoxic drug dosages (25 microM, 1 h; cell survival 79 +/- 7%), a marked radiosensitization manifested by a 1.25 +/- .07-fold reduction in the Dq was observed concomitant with a 49 +/- 4% decrease in GR activity. Using cells enriched in different stages of the cell cycle, BCyNU caused cell-age dependent cytotoxicity with preferential killing of cells in the radioresistant late-S-phase, a likely explanation for its radiosensitizing capabilities at high drug dosages. Data obtained at nontoxic drug dosages suggest that GR-inactivation may be an important component of cellular response to free-radical induced damage.

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