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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1998 Jul 30;248(3):569-73.

Ebselen, a selenium-containing redox drug, releases zinc from metallothionein.

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


Selenium compounds oxidize the thiolate ligands in the zinc clusters of metallothionein and release zinc. This chemistry defines new cellular targets for biological forms of selenium and suggests important interactions between zinc and selenium, two biologically essential elements. In the course of delineating the redox chemistry of biological zinc complexes with thiolate ligands, we have found that the non-toxic experimental drug ebselen (2-phenyl-1,2-benzisoselenazol-3(2H)-one) releases zinc from metallothionein. The reaction follows a 1:1 stoichiometry for thiols, is very rapid (t1/2 < 1 min), and proceeds through the opening of the isoselenazol ring and formation of a selenodisulfide with metallothionein. Despite the fast reaction of ebselen with glutathione (t1/2 < 1 s), which proceeds past the stage of the selenodisulfide adduct to the selenol and diselenide derivatives, ebselen reacts with MT even in the presence of glutathione, suggesting that it can also react with MT in vivo. These findings reveal a new mode of action for ebselen and therefore suggest therapeutic applications in zinc-related medical disorders as well as a possible role of biological selenium compounds in zinc metabolism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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