Cancer biology & therapy

The thioredoxin reductase/thioredoxin system: novel redox targets for cancer therapy.

PMID 15684606


Thioredoxin reductase (TRX) is a selenoprotein that reduces oxidized protein substrates in an NADPH-dependent process (cf. Fig. 1). The thioredoxins (TX) are a family of small redox active proteins that undergo reversible oxidation/reduction and help to maintain the redox state of cells. TX serves as a cofactor in many TRX-catalyzed reductions in a manner similar to glutathione (GSH) in thioltransferase reactions. For example, TX is a cofactor in protein disulfide reduction and DNA synthesis, but independently, it inhibits apoptosis, stimulates cell proliferation and angiogenesis, and increases transcription factor activity. The role of the TRX/TX system is limited by its reducing capacity as well as the additional supply of electrons in the form of NADPH provided by hexose monophosphate shunt (HMPS). TX is limited by the reduction capacity of its vicinal sulfhydryls and needs a source of electrons from the HMPS and TRX- coupled system to reduce disulfides. Oxidized TX is reduced by TRX and NADPH. Several lines of evidence suggest that the coupled HMPS/TRX/TX system represents an important target for cancer therapy. TX overexpression has been reported in several malignancies and may be associated with aggressive tumor growth and poor survival. In some cells, TX is an important factor in conferring resistance to chemotherapy and in stimulating production of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1). Several inhibitors of the TRX/TX system have been evaluated in experimental cancer models: these include HMPS inhibitors, carbohydrate analogues, NADP synthesis blockers, vicinal thiol reactants, cisplatin, and TRX inhibitors. More recently, the targeted anti-cancer agent motexafin gadolinium has been identified. Motexafin gadolinium is a redox mediator that selectively localizes to cancer cells, and reacts with reducing metabolites and vicinal thiols to generate reactive oxygen species that ultimately block the TRX enzyme as well as the analogous glutaredoxin activity. In cell and animal models, motexafin gadolinium is directly cytotoxic to various tumor cells and enhances the activity of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This drug is now in a broad range of clinical trials investigating its therapeutic potential when used as a single agent or in combination with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Promising clinical activity has been reported in a clinical trial with motexafin gadolinium and whole brain radiation therapy for treatment of brain metastases from solid tumors. These findings suggest that the TRX/TX system may represent an attractive target for development of new cancer therapeutics.

Related Materials