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J Biol Chem. 2004 Nov 12;279(46):47939-51. Epub 2004 Aug 30.

Glutaredoxin 2 catalyzes the reversible oxidation and glutathionylation of mitochondrial membrane thiol proteins: implications for mitochondrial redox regulation and antioxidant DEFENSE.

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Medical Research Council Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Wellcome Trust-MRC Building, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2XY, United Kingdom.


The redox poise of the mitochondrial glutathione pool is central in the response of mitochondria to oxidative damage and redox signaling, but the mechanisms are uncertain. One possibility is that the oxidation of glutathione (GSH) to glutathione disulfide (GSSG) and the consequent change in the GSH/GSSG ratio causes protein thiols to change their redox state, enabling protein function to respond reversibly to redox signals and oxidative damage. However, little is known about the interplay between the mitochondrial glutathione pool and protein thiols. Therefore we investigated how physiological GSH/GSSG ratios affected the redox state of mitochondrial membrane protein thiols. Exposure to oxidized GSH/GSSG ratios led to the reversible oxidation of reactive protein thiols by thiol-disulfide exchange, the extent of which was dependent on the GSH/GSSG ratio. There was an initial rapid phase of protein thiol oxidation, followed by gradual oxidation over 30 min. A large number of mitochondrial proteins contain reactive thiols and most of these formed intraprotein disulfides upon oxidation by GSSG; however, a small number formed persistent mixed disulfides with glutathione. Both protein disulfide formation and glutathionylation were catalyzed by the mitochondrial thiol transferase glutaredoxin 2 (Grx2), as were protein deglutathionylation and the reduction of protein disulfides by GSH. Complex I was the most prominent protein that was persistently glutathionylated by GSSG in the presence of Grx2. Maintenance of complex I with an oxidized GSH/GSSG ratio led to a dramatic loss of activity, suggesting that oxidation of the mitochondrial glutathione pool may contribute to the selective complex I inactivation seen in Parkinson's disease. Most significantly, Grx2 catalyzed reversible protein glutathionylation/deglutathionylation over a wide range of GSH/GSSG ratios, from the reduced levels accessible under redox signaling to oxidized ratios only found under severe oxidative stress. Our findings indicate that Grx2 plays a central role in the response of mitochondria to both redox signals and oxidative stress by facilitating the interplay between the mitochondrial glutathione pool and protein thiols.

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