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Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Oct 1;35(7):752-62.

Reaction of cysteine and glutathione (GSH) at the freshly fractured quartz surface: a possible role in silica-related diseases?

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Dipartimento di Chimica Inorganica, Chimica Fisica e Chimica dei Materiali and Interdepartmental Center for Studies on Asbestos and other Toxic Particulates, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy.


The reactivity of quartz dusts towards glutathione (GSH) and cysteine (Cys) has been investigated. Cys and GSH react, without being adsorbed (UV-Vis spectroscopy), with commercial quartz dusts in an exposed surface-dependent way, but not with amorphous silica. GSH and Cys have been contacted with freshly ground quartz (agate jar QZg-a and steel jar QZg-s) and quartz heated in air at 500 degrees C (QZs-500) and with a dust generated from a purified quartz (99.9999%) to detect the nature of the reacting surface sites. With both GSH and Cys, the highest reactivity was found on the particles ground in a steel jar, while pure quartz was fully inactive. Detection of the radical GS* (spin trapping) suggests a radical mechanism of oxidation to disulphide onto surface-bound iron traces, more abundant on QZg-s and absent on the pure quartz. Oxidation of thiol groups occurs at surface sites different from those involved in the homolytic rupture of a C-H bond. Both reactions are more pronounced on freshly ground samples, but the C-H rupture takes place at silicon-based surface radicals and Fe2+ centers, while oxidation of GSH and Cys requires Fe3+ centers. As all commercial quartz dusts contain surface iron as an impurity, depletion of extracellular or intracellular GSH may contribute to the oxidative damage caused by particle-derived and cell-derived reactive oxygen species.

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