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Curr Top Cell Regul. 2000;36:1-30.

Cellular thiols and redox-regulated signal transduction.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California Berkeley 94720, USA.


In contrast to the conventional notion that reactive oxygen is mostly a trigger for oxidative damage of biological structures, now we know that low physiologically relevant concentrations of ROS can regulate a variety of key molecular mechanisms that may be linked with important cell functions (Fig. 4). Redox-based regulation of gene expression has emerged as a fundamental regulatory mechanism in cell biology. Several proteins, with apparent redox-sensing activity, have been described. Electron flow through side-chain functional CH2-SH groups of conserved cysteinyl residues in these proteins account for the redox-sensing properties. Protein thiol groups with high thiol-disulfide oxidation potentials are likely to be redox-sensitive. The ubiquitous endogenous thiols thioredoxin and glutathione are of central importance in redox signaling. Signals are transduced from the cell surface to the nucleus through phosphorylation and dephosphorylation chain reactions of cellular proteins at tyrosine and serine/threonine. Protein phosphorylation, one of the most fundamental mediators of cell signaling, is redox-sensitive. DNA-binding proteins are involved in the regulation of cellular processes such as replication, recombination, viral integration and transcription. Several studies show that the interaction of certain transcription regulatory proteins with their respective cognate DNA sites is also redox-regulated. Changes in the concentration of Ca2+i control a wide variety of cellular functions, including transcription and gene expression; Ca(2+)-driven protein phosphorylation and proteolytic processing of proteins are two major intracellular events that are implicated in signal transduction from the cell surface to the nucleus. Intracellular calcium homeostasis is regulated by the redox state of cellular thiols, and it is evident that cell calcium may play a critical role in the activation of the redox-sensitive transcription factor NF-kappa B. Among the several thiol agents tested for their efficacy in modulating cellular redox status, N-acetyl-L-cysteine and alpha-lipoic acid hold most promise for human use. A strong therapeutic potential of strategies that would modulate the cellular thioredoxin system has been also evident.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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