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J Biol Chem. 2006 Apr 21;281(16):10691-7. Epub 2006 Feb 14.

Motexafin gadolinium, a tumor-selective drug targeting thioredoxin reductase and ribonucleotide reductase.

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Medical Nobel Institute for Biochemistry, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Motexafin gadolinium (MGd) is a chemotherapeutic drug that selectively targets tumor cells and mediates redox reactions generating reactive oxygen species. Thioredoxin (Trx), NADPH, and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) of the cytosol/nucleus or mitochondria are major thiol-dependent reductases with many functions in cell growth, defense against oxidative stress, and apoptosis. Mammalian TrxRs are selenocysteine-containing flavoenzymes; MGd was an NADPH-oxidizing substrate for human or rat TrxR1 with a Km value of 8.65 microM (kcat/Km of 4.86 x 10(4) M(-1) s(-1)). The reaction involved redox cycling of MGd by oxygen producing superoxide and hydrogen peroxide. MGd acted as a non-competitive inhibitor (IC50 of 6 microM) for rat TrxR. In contrast, direct reaction between MGd and reduced human Trx was negligible. The corresponding reaction with reduced Escherichia coli Trx was also negligible, but MGd was a better substrate (kcat/Km of 2.23 x 10(5) M(-1) s(-1)) for TrxR from E. coli and a strong inhibitor of Trx-dependent protein disulfide reduction. Ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), a 1:1 complex of the non-identical R1- and R2-subunits, catalyzes the essential de novo synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides for DNA synthesis using electrons from Trx and TrxR. MGd inhibited recombinant mouse RNR activity with either 3 microM reduced human Trx (IC50 2 microM) or 4 mM dithiothreitol (IC50 6 microM) as electron donors. Our results demonstrate MGd-induced enzymatic generation of reactive oxygen species by TrxR plus a powerful inhibition of RNR. This may explain the effects of the drug on cancer cells, which often overproduce TrxR and have induced RNR for replication and repair.

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