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Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Jan 12;71(3):231-8. Epub 2005 Nov 21.

Expression of gamma-glutamyltransferase in cancer cells and its significance in drug resistance.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Pathology BMIE, University of Pisa Medical School, Italy.


The expression of gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), a cell surface enzyme involved in cellular glutathione homeostasis, is often significantly increased in human tumors, and its role in tumor progression, invasion and drug resistance has been repeatedly suggested. As GGT participates in the metabolism of cellular glutathione, its activity has been mostly regarded as a factor in reconsitution of cellular antioxidant/antitoxic defences. On this basis, an involvement of GGT expression in resistance of cancer cells to cytotoxic drugs (in particular, cisplatin and other electrophilic agents) has been envisaged. Mechanistic aspects of GGT involvement in antitumor pharmacology deserve however further investigations. Recent evidence points to a more complex role of GGT in modulation of redox equilibria, with effects acting both intracellularly and in the extracellular microenvironment. Indications exist that the protective effects of GGT may be independent of intracellular glutathione, and derive rather from processes taking place at extracellular level and involving reactions of electrophilic drugs with thiol metabolites originating from GGT-mediated cleavage of extracellular glutathione. Although expression of GGT cannot be regarded as a general mechanism of resistance, the involvement of this enzyme in modulation of redox metabolism is expected to have impact in cellular response to several cytotoxic agents. The present commentary is a survey of data concerning the role of GGT in tumor cell biology and the mechanisms of its potential involvement in tumor drug resistance.

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