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Chem Res Toxicol. 1993 Jan-Feb;6(1):75-81.

Selective depletion of mitochondrial glutathione concentrations by (R,S)-3-hydroxy-4-pentenoate potentiates oxidative cell death.

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Department of Biochemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


The hepatocellular glutathione content is partitioned into a cytosolic pool, which accounts for about 85% of the cellular glutathione content, and a mitochondrial pool, which accounts for about 15% of the cellular glutathione content. Previous studies indicated that the mitochondrial glutathione pool may play a critical role in cytoprotection against xenobiotic-induced cell damage. Tests of the role of mitochondrial glutathione in cytoprotection have been hampered by the lack of agents that selectively deplete the mitochondrial glutathione pool. To test the hypothesis that mitochondrial glutathione plays a critical role in protecting against cytotoxic agents, we developed a method to deplete selectively mitochondrial glutathione concentrations. (R,S)-3-Hydroxy-4-pentenoate, an analog of (R)-3-hydroxybutanoate, caused a rapid and selective depletion of mitochondrial glutathione concentrations. Incubation of (R,S)-3-hydroxy-4-pentenoate with rat liver mitochondria or with 3-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase in the presence of glutathione afforded a glutathione conjugate whose chromatographic properties were identical with synthetic S-(3-oxo-4-carboxybutyl)glutathione, indicating that (R,S)-3-hydroxy-4-pentenoate was oxidized to the Michael acceptor 3-oxo-4-pentenoate, which reacts with glutathione. Exposure of rat hepatocytes to (R,S)-3-hydroxy-4-pentenoate, which was not cytotoxic and did not induce mitochondrial dysfunction, potentiated the cytotoxicity of tert-butyl hydroperoxide. These results establish the critical role of mitochondrial glutathione in cytoprotection and demonstrate and (R,S)-3-hydroxy-4-pentenoate may find utility in exploring mitochondrial glutathione homeostasis.

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