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Radiat Res. 2006 Mar;165(3):307-17.

Role of vicinal protein thiols in radiation and cytotoxic responses.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Glutathione (GSH) and more recently protein thiols (P-SH) have been found to play a major role in cellular radiation response. However, the effects of protein vicinal thiols, which are important for the functions of several major enzymes, on cellular responses to radiation have not been clearly delineated. Here we investigated the effects of depleting GSH and protein vicinal thiols (HS-P-SH) and P-SH on cell toxicity and radiation response. We used hydroxyethyldisulfide (HEDS, beta-mercaptoethanol-disulfide) alone and in combination with phenylarsine oxide (PAO) to alter P-SH, HS-P-SH and GSH. HEDS, a direct substrate for thioredoxin reductase and an indirect substrate for glutaredoxin (thioltransferase), did not alter protein vicinal thiols in cells. However, PAO, which specifically forms a covalent adduct with vicinal thiols, blocked bioreduction of HEDS; there was a concomitant and yet unexplained decrease in K1 cell GSH in the presence of HEDS and PAO. G6PD+ (K1) and G6PD- (E89) cells treated with L-buthionine sulfoximine (L-BSO) for 72 h to deplete GSH followed by PAO showed an increased cytotoxic response. However, the surviving E89 cells showed a 10,000-fold greater radiation lethality than the K1 cells. The effects of rapid depletion of GSH by a combination of L-BSO and dimethyfumarate (DMF), a glutathione-S-transferase substrate, were also investigated. Under these conditions, PAO radiosensitized the E89 cells more than 1000-fold over the K1 cells. The potential mechanisms for the altered response may be related to the inhibition of thioredoxin reductase and glutaredoxin. Both are key enzymes involved in DNA synthesis, protein homeostasis and cell survival. With GSH removed, vicinal thiols appear to play a critical role in determining cell survival and radiosensitivity. Decreasing P-SH and removing GSH and vicinal thiols is extremely toxic to K1 and E89 cells. We conclude that radiation sensitivity and cell survival are dependent on vicinal thiol and GSH. In the former and latter cases, the protein thiols are also important.

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