The role of glutathione in copper metabolism and toxicity

J. H. Freedman, M. R. Ciriolo, J. Peisach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cellular copper metabolism and the mechanism of resistance to copper toxicity were investigated using a wild type hepatoma cell line (HAC) and a copper-resistant cell line (HAC600) that accumulates copper and has a highly elevated level of metallothionein (MT). Of the enzymes involved in reactive oxygen metabolism, only glutathionine peroxidase was elevated (3-4-fold) in resistant cells, suggestive of an increase in the cellular flux of hydrogen peroxide. A majority of the cytoplasmic copper (>60%) was isolated from both cell lines as a GSH complex. Kinetic studies of 67Cu uptake showed that GSH bound 67Cu before the metal was complexed by MT. Depletion of cellular GSH with buthionine sulfoximine inhibited the incorporation of 67Cu into MT by greater than 50%. These results support a model of copper metabolism in which the metal is complexed by GSH soon after entering the cell. The complexed metal is then transferred to MT where it is stored. This study also indicates that resistance to metal toxicity in copper-resistant hepatoma cells is due to increases in both cellular GSH and MT. Furthermore, it is suggested that elevated levels of GSH peroxidase allows cells to more efficiently accommodate an increased cellular hydrogen peroxide flux that may occur as a consequence of elevated levels of cytoplasmic copper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5598-5605
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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