Scientific reports

Crosstalk between cystine and glutathione is critical for the regulation of amino acid signaling pathways and ferroptosis.

PMID 27425006


Although essential amino acids regulate mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and the integrated stress response (ISR), the role of cysteine is unknown. We found that in hepatoma HepG2 cells, cystine (oxidized form of cysteine) activated mTORC1 and suppressed the ISR. Cystine deprivation induced GSH efflux and extracellular degradation, which aimed to restore cellular cysteine. Inhibition of γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) impaired the ability of GSH or cell-permeable GSH to restore mTORC1 signaling and the ISR, suggesting that the capacity of GSH to release cysteine, but not GSH per se, regulated the signaling networks. Inhibition of protein translation restored both mTORC1 signaling and the ISR during cystine starvation, suggesting the bulk of cellular cysteine was committed to the biosynthetic process. Cellular cysteine and GSH displayed overlapping protective roles in the suppression of ferroptosis, further supporting their cooperation in the regulation of cell signaling. Thus, cellular cysteine and its derivative GSH cooperate to regulate mTORC1 pathway, the ISR and ferroptosis.