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Toxicon. 1994 Apr;32(4):491-504.

Cellular uptake and release of the immunomodulating fungal toxin gliotoxin.

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Division of Cell Biology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra City.


Uptake of the immunomodulating agent gliotoxin into a panel of cells using biosynthetically radiolabelled 35S toxin showed rapid association of the toxin with all cell types studied with 70-85% of the total counts in the media becoming cell associated. A difference in kinetics was observed for cell lines when compared to the primary cells thymocytes, activated T-cells and macrophages. In the latter uptake was maximal after 10-15 min and radiolabel was lost from the cells as early as 100 min. In the cell lines studied, uptake was complete in less than 1 min with no loss of label after 100 min. The exception to this was a Wilms tumour line. Analysis of the fate of gliotoxin taken up into sensitive (activated T-cells) and resistant (human fibroblast) cells by HPLC showed: (a) up to 30% of the original gliotoxin taken up by sensitive cells was released as free gliotoxin over a 22 hr period. The remainder was metabolized to inorganic sulphate; (b) in T-cells gliotoxin is reduced to the dithiol form in significant amounts and this reduction may be modulated by glutathione; and (c) no reduced gliotoxin could be detected in the resistant fibroblast cell line 27Sk even though up to 50% of the original gliotoxin was still present in the free form in these cells at 22 hr. Gliotoxin became covalently associated with macromolecules in both cell types studied. Very little free gliotoxin is released into extracellular medium by the fibroblast cell line. Gliotoxin at 500 nM was found to induce apoptosis or programmed cell death in the Wilms tumour cell line but not in any other cell line studied, and this may account for the different kinetics of release of the toxin from the Wilms tumour cell line.

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