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Neurochem Int. 1995 Jul;27(1):111-7.

Metallothionein/disulfide interactions, oxidative stress, and the mobilization of cellular zinc.

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Center for Biochemical and Biophysical Sciences and Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Glutathione disulfide, the major cellular disulfide, releases zinc from metallothionein (MT) [W. Maret (1994) Oxidative metal release from metallothionein via zinc-thiol/disulfide interchange, Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 91, 237-241]. Here, the interaction of rabbit liver MT-II with other selected biological disulfides (coenzyme A/glutathione mixed disulfide, coenzyme A disulfide, and cystamine) was investigated by measuring concomitant release of radioactive 65-zinc from MT. These disulfides react more rapidly than glutathione disulfide, thus underscoring the reactivity of zinc sulfur bonds in the clusters of MT and the importance of the MT/disulfide interaction as a chemical mechanism for mobilizing zinc from a thermodynamically stable zinc complex. Two implications of these in vitro findings are discussed. (i) Apparently, in the case of zinc which is redox inert, Nature has availed itself of the redox activity of the cysteine ligand to mobilize the metal, and, presumably to permit redox-control of cellular zinc distribution. The mobilization of zinc from MT suggests a possible function of MT as a physiological zinc donor. (ii) A shift of the glutathione redox balance under conditions of oxidative stress will accelerate metal release from MT. Such a disturbance of metal metabolism has important consequences for the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease where oxidative stress occurs in affected brain tissue.

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