Hexavalent chromium causes the oxidation of thioredoxin in human bronchial epithelial cells.

PMID 18328613


Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] species such as chromates are cytotoxic. Inhalational exposure is a primary concern in many Cr-related industries and their immediate environments, and bronchial epithelial cells are directly exposed to inhaled Cr(VI). Chromates are readily taken up by cells and are reduced to reactive Cr species which may also result in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The thioredoxin (Trx) system has a key role in the maintenance of cellular thiol redox balance and is essential for cell survival. Cells normally maintain the cytosolic (Trx1) and mitochondrial (Trx2) thioredoxins largely in the reduced state. Redox Western blots were used to assess the redox status of the thioredoxins in normal human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) incubated with soluble Na2CrO4 or insoluble ZnCrO4 for different periods of time. Both chromates caused a dose- and time-dependent oxidation of Trx2 and Trx1. Trx2 was more susceptible in that it could all be converted to the oxidized form, whereas a small amount of reduced Trx1 remained even after prolonged treatment with higher Cr concentrations. Only one of the dithiols, presumably the active site, of Trx1 was oxidized by Cr(VI). Cr(VI) did not cause significant GSH depletion or oxidation indicating that Trx oxidation does not result from a general oxidation of cellular thiols. With purified Trx and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) in vitro, Cr(VI) also resulted in Trx oxidation. It was determined that purified TrxR has pronounced Cr(VI) reducing activity, so competition for electron flow from TrxR might impair its ability to reduce Trx. The in vitro data also suggested some direct redox interaction between Cr(VI) and Trx. The ability of Cr(VI) to cause Trx oxidation in cells could contribute to its cytotoxic effects, and could have important implications for cell survival, redox-sensitive cell signaling, and the cells' tolerance of other oxidant insults.

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