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Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Sep;27(5-6):623-35.

Redox modulation of cell surface protein thiols in U937 lymphoma cells: the role of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase-dependent H2O2 production and S-thiolation.

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Institute of General Pathology, University of Siena, Italy.


The expression of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), a plasma membrane ectoenzyme involved in the metabolism of extracellular reduced glutathione (GSH), is a marker of neoplastic progression in several experimental models, and occurs in a number of human malignant neoplasms and their metastases. Because it favors the supply of precursors for the synthesis of GSH, GGT expression has been interpreted as a member in cellular antioxidant defense systems. However, thiol metabolites generated at the cell surface during GGT activity can induce prooxidant reactions, leading to production of free radical oxidant species. The present study was designed to characterize the prooxidant reactions occurring during GGT ectoactivity, and their possible effects on the thiol redox status of proteins of the cell surface. Results indicate that: (i) in U937 cells, expressing significant amounts of membrane-bound GGT, GGT-mediated metabolism of GSH is coupled with the extracellular production of hydrogen peroxide; (ii) GGT activity also results in decreased levels of protein thiols at the cell surface; (iii) GGT-dependent decrease in protein thiols is due to sulfhydryl oxidation and protein S-thiolation reactions; and (iv) GGT irreversible inhibition by acivicin is sufficient to produce an increase of protein thiols at the cell surface. Membrane receptors and transcription factors have been shown to possess critical thiols involved in the transduction of proliferative signals. Furthermore, it was suggested that S-thiolation of cellular proteins may represent a mechanism for protection of vulnerable thiols against irreversible damage by prooxidant agents. Thus, the findings reported here provide additional explanations for the envisaged role played by membrane-bound GGT activity in the proliferative attitude of malignant cells and their resistance to prooxidant drugs and radiation therapy.

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