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Biochemistry. 2010 Mar 30;49(12):2715-24. doi: 10.1021/bi9018658.

Levodopa deactivates enzymes that regulate thiol-disulfide homeostasis and promotes neuronal cell death: implications for therapy of Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Pharmacology, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, 2109 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-4965, USA.


Parkinson's disease (PD), characterized by dopaminergic neuronal loss, is attributed to oxidative stress, diminished glutathione (GSH) levels, mitochondrial dysfunction, and protein aggregation. Treatment of PD involves chronic administration of Levodopa (l-DOPA) which is a pro-oxidant and may disrupt sulfhydryl homeostasis. The goal of these studies is to elucidate the effects of l-DOPA on thiol homeostasis in a model akin to PD, i.e., immortalized dopaminergic neurons (SHSY5Y cells) with diminished GSH content. These neurons exhibit hypersensitivity to l-DOPA-induced cell death, which is attributable to concomitant inhibition of the intracellular thiol disulfide oxidoreductase enzymes. Glutaredoxin (Grx) was deactivated in a dose-dependent fashion, but its content was unaffected. Glutathione disulfide (GSSG) reductase (GR) activity was not altered. Selective knockdown of Grx resulted in an increased level of apoptosis, documenting the role of the Grx system in neuronal survival. l-DOPA treatments also led to decreased activities of thioredoxin (Trx) and thioredoxin reductase (TR), concomitant with diminution of their cellular contents. Selective chemical inhibition of TR activity led to an increased level of apoptosis, documenting the Trx system's contribution to neuronal viability. To investigate the mechanism of inhibition at the molecular level, we treated the each isolated enzyme with oxidized l-DOPA. GR, Trx, and TR activities were little affected. However, Grx was inactivated in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion indicative of irreversible adduction of dopaquinone to its nucleophilic active-site Cys-22, consistent with the intracellular loss of Grx activity but not Grx protein content after l-DOPA treatment. Overall l-DOPA is shown to impair the collaborative contributions of the Grx and Trx systems to neuron survival.

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