Glutathione disulfide induces apoptosis in U937 cells by a redox-mediated p38 MAP kinase pathway.

Giuseppe Filomeni, Giuseppe Rotilio, Maria Rosa Ciriolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in the intracellular reduced/oxidized glutathione ratio (GSH/GSSG) are crucial reduction-oxidation (redox) events that trigger downstream proliferation or death responses. We investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying redox-mediated cell signaling upon an oxidative insult by treating U937 cells with exogenous nonpermeable GSSG. This treatment results in a significant decrease of exofacial cell membrane thiol groups and intracellular decrement of GSH content, owing to its engagement in the formation of mixed disulfides. Changes in thioredoxin redox state were also observed, and they may be related to the activation of upstream ASK1 and selective induction of downstream p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, detectable by phosphorylation of MKK3/6 and p38 MAPK. Moreover, an increase in reactive oxygen species production was detected, and cells were committed to apoptosis along the mitochondrial pathway, evidenced by Bcl-2 down-regulation, cytochome c release from mitochondria, caspase-9 cleavage, and caspase-3 activation. GSH ethyl ester, a precursor of GSH, by counteracting intracellular mixed disulfide formation, canceled both p38 MAPK activation and GSSG-mediated apoptosis via inhibition of thioredoxin oxidation and stabilization of thioredoxin/ASK1 complex, whereas, blockage of p38 MAPK by specific inhibitor SB 203580 allowed apoptosis at a very reduced extent. Results suggest that kinase cascade may serve as a primary transducer of cytoplasmic oxidative signals to the nucleus before apoptosis-inducing signals are activated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-66
Number of pages3
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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