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J Biol Chem. 1989 Nov 5;264(31):18480-4.

Induction of cystine transport activity in human fibroblasts by oxygen.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Tsukuba University Medical School, Ibaraki, Japan.


The transport activity for cystine in cultured human fibroblasts decreased after incubation of the cells under a low oxygen concentration. After the incubation for 48 h under 3% oxygen, the Vmax of the transport was decreased to less than one-third of that of the control cells, with little change in Km. The similar transport activity was observed in the cells cultured under 3% oxygen for 10-40 days with several times of passages. When these low oxygen-cultured cells were incubated under room air, the activity was enhanced with a lag of about 4 h and was almost completely restored within 24 h. This restoration required protein synthesis. The cystine transport activity increased by 50% after exposure of the cells to hyperoxia (40% oxygen). From these results it is concluded that the transport activity for cystine is induced by oxygen. In contrast, little change in the transport activities for alanine and leucine occurred in the cells exposed to the corresponding hypoxia or hyperoxia. Since the cystine transported into the cells is reduced to cysteine and the cysteine readily exits to the culture medium where it autoxidizes to cystine, a cystine-cysteine cycle across the plasma membrane has been postulated. Since the autoxidation of cysteine in the culture medium was markedly slowed down under the low oxygen concentration, the change in the cystine transport activity in response to the oxygen concentration was regarded as pertinent. Induction of the cystine transport activity may constitute a protective mechanism against the oxidative stress, to which the culture cells are exposed, by providing the cells with cysteine which is mainly incorporated into glutathione.

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