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Biochem Pharmacol. 2002 Sep;64(5-6):1027-35.

Glutathione catabolism as a signaling mechanism.

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Department of Experimental Pathology, University of Pisa Medical School, Via Roma 55, 56126 Pisa, Italy.


Glutathione (GSH) is the main intracellular thiol antioxidant, and as such participates in a number of cellular antitoxic and defensive functions. Nevertheless, non-antioxidant functions of GSH have also been described, e.g. in modulation of cell proliferation and immune response. Recent studies from our and other laboratories have provided evidence for a third functional aspect of GSH, i.e. the prooxidant roles played by molecular species originating during its catabolism by the membrane ectoenzyme gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). The reduction of metal ions effected by GSH catabolites is capable to induce redox cycling processes leading to the production of reactive oxygen species (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide), as well as of other free radicals. Through the action of these reactive compounds, GSH catabolism can ultimately lead to oxidative modifications on a variety of molecular targets, involving oxidation and/or S-thiolation of protein thiol groups in the first place. Modulating effects of this kind have been observed on several important, redox-sensitive components of the signal transduction chains, such as cell surface receptors, protein phosphatase activities and transcription factors. Against this background, the prooxidant reactions induced by GSH catabolism appear to represent a novel, as yet unrecognized mechanism for modulation of cellular signal transduction.

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