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Glutathione (GSH) is the major intracellular thiol present in 1-10-mm concentrations in human cells. However, the redox potential of the 2GSH/GSSG (glutathione disulfide) couple in cells varies in association with proliferation, differentiation, or apoptosis from -260 mV to -200 or -170 mV. Hydrogen peroxide is transiently produced as second messenger in receptor-mediated growth factor signaling. To understand oxidation mechanisms by GSSG or nitric oxide-related nitrosylation we studied effects on glutaredoxins (Grx), which catalyze GSH-dependent thiol-disulfide redox reactions, particularly reversible glutathionylation of protein sulfhydryl groups. Human Grx1 and Grx2 contain Cys-Pro-Tyr-Cys and Cys-Ser-Tyr-Cys active sites and have three and two additional structural Cys residues, respectively. We analyzed the redox state and disulfide pairing of Cys residues upon GSSG oxidation and S-nitrosylation. Cytosolic/nuclear Grx1 was partly inactivated by both S-nitrosylation and oxidation. Inhibition by nitrosylation was reversible under anaerobic conditions; aerobically it was stronger and irreversible, indicating inactivation by nitration. Oxidation of Grx1 induced a complex pattern of disulfide-bonded dimers and oligomers formed between Cys-8 and either Cys-79 or Cys-83. In addition, an intramolecular disulfide between Cys-79 and Cys-83 was identified, predicted to have a profound effect on the three-dimensional structure. In contrast, mitochondrial Grx2 retains activity upon oxidation, did not form disulfide-bonded dimers or oligomers, and could not be S-nitrosylated. The dimeric iron sulfur cluster-coordinating inactive form of Grx2 dissociated upon nitrosylation, leading to activation of the protein. The striking differences between Grx1 and Grx2 reflect their diverse regulatory functions in vivo and also adaptation to different subcellular localization.

Original publication




Journal article


J biol chem

Publication Date





14428 - 14436


Amino Acid Sequence, Cysteine, Cytosol, Dimerization, Disulfides, Glutaredoxins, Glutathione, Humans, Hydrogen Peroxide, Mass Spectrometry, Mitochondria, Molecular Sequence Data, Nitroso Compounds, Oxidants, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxidoreductases, Oxygen, Protein Conformation, Protein Folding, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Subcellular Fractions, Sulfhydryl Compounds