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Ann Agric Environ Med. 2013;20(4):721-5.

Exposure to lead affects male biothiols metabolism.

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Department of Biochemistry, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland.
Independent Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland; Department of Public Health, University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow, Poland.
Chair of Physiotherapy, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland.


The most important biothiols include glutathione, homocysteine (HCY), cysteine and proteins. The aim of the presented study was to evaluate the influence of lead on the biothiol turnover--the concentration of HCY and protein sulfhydryl groups (P-SH) in the serum and reduced glutathione (G-SH) in erythrocytes--in individuals (employees of metal works) exposed to lead and to evaluate its probable oxidative disorders, measured as the carbonyl protein (CP) concentration in serum. The exposed workers were divided into 2 subgroups: 1) low lead exposure (LPb), with a lead concentration in the blood (PbB) of 20-45 µg dl(-1) (n= 102), and 2) high lead exposure (HPb), with PbB = 45-60 µg dl(-1) (n= 81). The control group consisted of 72 office workers or other healthy subjects with no history of occupational exposure to lead. All the controls had normal PbB (<10 μg dl(-1)) and ZPP (<2.5 μg dl(-1)) levels. The concentration of HCY was higher in the LPb group by 11% and in the HPb group by 26%, compared with the control group (n=72). The CP concentration in these 2 groups was more than twice as high as that of the control group, with 108% and 125% increases for the LPb and HPb groups, respectively; G-SH was lower by 6.6% and 7.4% for the LPb and HPb groups, respectively; P-SH was lower by 8.2% and 13% for the LPb and HPb groups, respectively. Lead decreases levels of glutathione and protein thiol groups. Lead-induced oxidative stress contributes to the observed elevation of protein carbonyl groups. Besides, lead poisoning seems to be associated with hyperhomocysteinaemia, which may promote the development of atherosclerosis.

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