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Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Jun;222(1-2):107-18.

Reduction of Cr (VI) by cysteine: significance in human lymphocytes and formation of DNA damage in reactions with variable reduction rates.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


The induction of genotoxicity by Cr (VI) is dependent on its reductive activation inside the cell. Our recent studies have found that reduction of Cr (VI) by cysteine resulted in the formation of mutagenic Cr (III)-DNA adducts in the absence of oxidative DNA damage. In this work, we examined the formation of oxidative and Cr (III)-dependent types of DNA damage under a broader range of Cr (VI) and cysteine concentrations and investigated a potential role of this reducer in intracellular metabolism of Cr (VI). Peripheral lymphocytes from unexposed humans had 7.8-fold excess of glutathione over cysteine, whereas lymphocytes from stainless steel welders contained only 3 times higher amount of glutathione (p = 0.0009) which was entirely caused by the decrease in the concentration of glutathione. A strong correlation (r = 0.72) between the levels of both thiols was found in lymphocytes from controls. The number of DNA-protein crosslinks in lymphocytes from welders was 4.1 times higher than among controls, indicating the presence of Cr (VI)-dependent DNA damage. The average rate of Cr (VI) reduction by cysteine was approximately 5 times faster than that by glutathione. Higher reduction rate combined with the decrease in the intracellular concentration of glutathione should make cysteine a predominant Cr (VI)-reducing thiol in lymphocytes of welders. Analysis of the initial rates of Cr (VI) reduction by different concentrations of cysteine suggested the presence of one- and two-electron pathways, with one-electron mechanism dominating in the physiological range of concentrations. There was no detectable formation of DNA breaks or abasic sites under a broad range of Cr (VI) and cysteine concentrations, resulting in up to 68-fold differences in the rates of reduction and the production of as many as 3 Cr (III)-DNA adducts per 10 bp. The reactions with slow reduction rates (low concentrations of cysteine) led to the most extensive formation of Cr (III)-DNA adducts. In summary, these results further establish Cr (III)-DNA adducts as the major form of DNA damage resulting from Cr (VI) metabolism by cysteine. The role of cysteine in reduction of Cr (VI) becomes more significant under conditions of occupational exposure to Cr (VI)-containing welding fumes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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