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J Cell Sci. 2000 Aug;113 ( Pt 15):2671-8.

Membrane gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase activity of melanoma cells: effects on cellular H(2)O(2) production, cell surface protein thiol oxidation and NF-kappa B activation status.

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Department of Pathophysiology & Experimental Medicine, University of Siena, Italy.


The metabolism of glutathione by membrane-bound &ggr;-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) has been recently recognized as a basal source of hydrogen peroxide in the extracellular space. Significant levels of GGT activity are expressed by malignant tumours, and in melanoma cell lines they were found to correlate with the malignant behaviour. As hydrogen peroxide and other oxidants can affect signal transduction pathways at several levels, the present study was aimed to verify: (i) the occurrence of GGT-dependent production of hydrogen peroxide in melanoma cells; (ii) the effects of GGT-dependent prooxidant reactions on known redox-sensitive cellular targets, i.e. protein thiols, the nuclear transcription factor NF-kappa B and p53. Two melanoma Me665/2 cell clones, exhibiting traces of (clone 2/21) or high (clone 2/60) GGT activity, were studied. The occurrence of GGT-dependent production of hydrogen peroxide was apparent in 2/60 cells, in which it was accompanied by lower levels of cell surface protein thiols. In 2/60 cells, GGT expression was also associated with higher levels of NF-kappa B activation, as compared to GGT-poor 2/21 cell clone. Indeed, stimulation or inhibition of GGT activity in 2/60 cells resulted in progressive activation or inactivation of NF-kappa B, respectively. An analysis of the p53 gene product indicated lack of protein expression in 2/60 cells, whereas a mutant protein was highly expressed in 2/21 cells. Taken together, these results indicate that the expression of GGT activity can provide melanoma cells with an additional source of hydrogen peroxide, and that such prooxidant reactions are capable to modify protein thiols at the cell surface level. In addition, GGT expression results in an up-regulation of the transcription factor NF-kappa B, which could explain the higher metastatic behaviour reported for GGT-rich melanoma cells as compared to their GGT-poor counterparts.

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