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Concept: Cysteine


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder in which a significant number of the children experience a developmental regression characterized by a loss of previously acquired skills and abilities. Typically reported are losses of verbal, nonverbal, and social abilities. Several recent studies suggest that children diagnosed with an ASD have abnormal sulfation chemistry, limited thiol availability, and decreased glutathione (GSH) reserve capacity, resulting in a compromised oxidation/reduction (redox) and detoxification capacity. Research indicates that the availability of thiols, particularly GSH, can influence the effects of thimerosal ™ and other mercury (Hg) compounds. TM is an organomercurial compound (49.55% Hg by weight) that has been, and continues to be, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, particularly in developing countries. Thiol-modulating mechanisms affecting the cytotoxicity of TM have been identified. Importantly, the emergence of ASD symptoms post-6 months of age temporally follows the administration of many childhood vaccines. The purpose of the present critical review is provide mechanistic insight regarding how limited thiol availability, abnormal sulfation chemistry, and decreased GSH reserve capacity in children with an ASD could make them more susceptible to the toxic effects of TM routinely administered as part of mandated childhood immunization schedules.

Concepts: Disulfide bond, Thiol, Glutathione, Thiols, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, Autism, Cysteine


In this work we investigated the formation, reactivity and anti-platelet activity of various mixed disulfide conjugates of clopidogrel. Our results showed that the production of the active metabolite (AM) from 2-oxoclopidogrel by human liver microsomes (HLMs) is greatly affected by the thiol reductants used. Among the ten thiol compounds tested, glutathione (GSH) is most efficient in producing the AM at a rate of 167 pmoles AM/min/mg HLM. Interestingly, no AM but only the mixed disulfide conjugates were formed in the presence of 6-chloropyridazine-3-thiol (CPT), 2,5-dimethylfuran-3-thiol (DFT), and 3-nitropyridine-2-thiol (NPT). The MS and MS2 spectra of the conjugates of these thiol compounds confirmed the presence of a mixed disulfide bond linkage between the AM and the thiol reductants. Kinetic studies revealed that the mixed disulfide conjugates were capable of exchanging thiols with GSH to release the AM with second order rate constants ranging from 1.2 to 28 M(-1)s(-1). The mixed disulfide conjugates of CPT and NPT showed potent inhibition of platelet aggregation after pre-treatment with 1 mM GSH, confirming that the AM is responsible for the anti-platelet activity of clopidogrel. Collectively, our results provide strong support for a P450-mediated bioactivation mechanism involving the initial formation of a glutathionyl conjugate followed by thiol-disulfide exchange with another GSH molecule to release the AM. Furthermore, the stable mixed disulfide conjugates identified in this study provide a platform to quantitatively generate the therapeutic AM without the need for P450-mediated bioactivation. This property can be further explored in order to overcome the inter-individual variability in clopidogrel therapy.

Concepts: Dithiothreitol, Thiol-disulfide exchange, Platelet, Sulfur, Glutathione, Cysteine, Thiol, Disulfide bond


Cone snails are predatory creatures using venom as a weapon for prey capture and defense. Since this venom is neurotoxic, the venom gland is considered as an enormous collection of pharmacologically interesting compounds having a broad spectrum of targets. As such, cone snail peptides represent an interesting treasure for drug development. Here, we report five novel peptides isolated from the venom of Conus longurionis, Conus asiaticus and Conus australis. Lo6/7a and Lo6/7b were retrieved from C. longurionis and have a cysteine framework VI/VII. Lo6/7b has an exceptional amino acid sequence because no similar conopeptide has been described to date (similarity percentage <50%). A third peptide, Asi3a from C. asiaticus, has a typical framework III Cys arrangement, classifying the peptide in the M-superfamily. Asi14a, another peptide of C. asiaticus, belongs to framework XIV peptides and has a unique amino acid sequence. Finally, AusB is a novel conopeptide from C. australis. The peptide has only one disulfide bond, but is structurally very different as compared to other disulfide-poor peptides. The peptides were screened on nAChRs, NaV and KV channels depending on their cysteine framework and proposed classification. No targets could be attributed to the peptides, pointing to novel functionalities. Moreover, in the quest of identifying novel pharmacological targets, the peptides were tested for antagonistic activity against a broad panel of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, as well as two yeast strains.

Concepts: Conidae, Disulfide bond, Protein structure, Cysteine, Conus, Glutathione, Protein, Amino acid


Many studies indicate a crucial role for the vitamin B12 and folate-dependent enzyme methionine synthase (MS) in brain development and function, but vitamin B12 status in the brain across the lifespan has not been previously investigated. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin, Cbl) exists in multiple forms, including methylcobalamin (MeCbl) and adenosylcobalamin (AdoCbl), serving as cofactors for MS and methylmalonylCoA mutase, respectively. We measured levels of five Cbl species in postmortem human frontal cortex of 43 control subjects, from 19 weeks of fetal development through 80 years of age, and 12 autistic and 9 schizophrenic subjects. Total Cbl was significantly lower in older control subjects (> 60 yrs of age), primarily reflecting a >10-fold age-dependent decline in the level of MeCbl. Levels of inactive cyanocobalamin (CNCbl) were remarkably higher in fetal brain samples. In both autistic and schizophrenic subjects MeCbl and AdoCbl levels were more than 3-fold lower than age-matched controls. In autistic subjects lower MeCbl was associated with decreased MS activity and elevated levels of its substrate homocysteine (HCY). Low levels of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) have been linked to both autism and schizophrenia, and both total Cbl and MeCbl levels were decreased in glutamate-cysteine ligase modulatory subunit knockout (GCLM-KO) mice, which exhibit low GSH levels. Thus our findings reveal a previously unrecognized decrease in brain vitamin B12 status across the lifespan that may reflect an adaptation to increasing antioxidant demand, while accelerated deficits due to GSH deficiency may contribute to neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Hippocampus, Cysteine, Frontal lobe, Folic acid, Methylcobalamin, Methionine, Vitamin B12


Transglutaminase 2 (TG2) is a ubiquitously expressed, intracellular as well as extracellular protein with multiple modes of posttranslational regulation, including an allosteric disulfide bond between Cys370-Cys371 that renders the enzyme inactive in the extracellular matrix. Although recent studies have established that extracellular TG2 is switched “on” by the redox cofactor protein thioredoxin-1 (TRX), it is unclear how TG2 is switched “off”. Here, we demonstrate that TG2 oxidation by biological small-molecule biological oxidants, including glutathione, cystine, and hydrogen peroxide, is unlikely to be the inactivation mechanism. Instead, endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein 57 (ERp57), a protein in the ER that promotes folding of nascent proteins and is also present in the extracellular environment, has the cellular and biochemical characteristics for inactivating TG2. We found that ERp57 colocalizes with extracellular TG2 in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). ERp57 oxidized TG2 with a rate constant that was 400- to 2000-fold higher than those of the aforementioned small molecule oxidants. Moreover, its specificity for TG2 was also markedly higher than those of other secreted redox proteins, including protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), ERp72, TRX, and quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 1 (QSOX1). Lastly, siRNAmediated ERp57 knockdown in HUVECs increased TG2-catalyzed transamidation in the extracellular environment. We conclude that, to the best of our knowledge, the disulfide bond switch in human TG2 represents the first example of a post-translational redox regulatory mechanism that is reversibly and allosterically modulated by two distinct proteins (ERp57 and TRX).

Concepts: Amino acid, Oxidizing agent, Biochemistry, Redox, Cysteine, Oxygen, Protein, Endoplasmic reticulum


This study reports the plasma glutathione concentrations in a double-blind, randomized, controlled, 2 × 2 cross-over study in which healthy participants consumed conventional milk (2 × 250 mL per day) containing both A1 and A2 types of β-casein, or milk containing only A2 type β-casein. Beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7), a peptide uniquely derived from the A1 type of β-casein, was previously reported to downregulate glutathione expression in human gut epithelial and neuronal cell lines by limiting cysteine uptake. The current human study demonstrates that consumption of milk containing only A2 β-casein was associated with a greater increase in plasma glutathione concentrations compared with the consumption of milk containing both β-casein types, and did not increase plasma BCM-7 concentrations compared with the washout diet in the study participants. Thus, milk containing only A2 β-casein and not A1 β-casein has the potential to promote the production of the antioxidant glutathione in humans.

Concepts: Cysteine, Nutrition, Cell, Human, Clinical trial, Antioxidant, Glutathione, Crossover study


One important change the head of boar spermatozoa during freeze-thawing is the destabilisation of its nucleoprotein structure due to a disruption of disulfide bonds. With the aim of better understanding these changes in frozen-thawed spermatozoa, two agents, namely reduced glutathione (GSH) and procaine hydrochloride (ProHCl), were added at different concentrations to the freezing media at different concentrations and combinations over the range 1-2mM. Then, 30 and 240min after thawing, cysteine-free residue levels of boar sperm nucleoproteins, DNA fragmentation and other sperm functional parameters were evaluated. Both GSH and ProHCl, at final concentrations of 2mM, induced a significant (P<0.05) increase in the number of non-disrupted sperm head disulfide bonds 30 and 240min after thawing compared with the frozen-thawed control. This effect was accompanied by a significant (P<0.05) decrease in DNA fragmentation 240min after thawing. Concomitantly, 1 and 2mM GSH, but not ProHCl at any of the concentrations tested, partially counteracted the detrimental effects caused by freeze-thawing on sperm peroxide levels, motility patterns and plasma membrane integrity. In conclusion, the results show that both GSH and ProHCl have a stabilising effect on the nucleoprotein structure of frozen-thawed spermatozoa, although only GSH exerts an appreciable effect on sperm viability.

Concepts: Spermatozoon, Thiol, Cysteine, Sperm, Glutathione, Disulfide bond


Well-aligned CdS nanorod arrays (CdS NRs) with ∼100nm in diameter and ∼700nm in length were fabricated on FTO (fluorine-doped tin oxide) substrate by using glutathione as capping agents. The growth of CdS NRs was studied in details by exploring the roles of each active binding group in glutathione. The thiol group in glutathione plays an important role in forming a compact CdS nanocrystal film, upon which the nanorods grow subsequently via the synergetic effect of thiol and dicarboxyl groups in glutathione. The influence of surface passivation with glutathione on the photoelectrical property of CdS NRs was also tested. The results revealed that glutathione ligands encapsulated in the surfaces of CdS NRs act as insulating barriers between CdS NRs and solution, hindering charge transport. Hybrid photovoltaic cells of FTO/CdS NRs/P3HT (poly(3-hexylthiophene))/Au were then assembled. The performance of the photovoltaic devices was increased with increasing the length of the as-prepared CdS nanorods and further enhanced to the highest efficiency of 0.373% after the thermal sulfuration treatment.

Concepts: Cadmium sulfide, Disulfide bond, Zinc, Thiol, Cysteine, Photovoltaics, Cadmium, Sulfur


Abstract 1. Chalcones are structural analogues of benzalacetophenone (BAP). Several derivatives have been identified in plants and anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties were attributed to the compounds, probably related to their direct antioxidant activity or stimulatory effects on the expression of endogenous defence enzymes like hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1). HO-1 expression is triggered by the Nrf2-Keap1 signalling pathway, initiated by the addition of chalcones to thiol groups of Keap1 via Michael-type reaction. 2. The present study used a model system estimating the reactivity of different synthetic chalcones and other α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds with thiols and compared the chemical reactivity with the biological activity, measured by HO-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts. 3. Chemical reactivity with the thiol group of N-acetylcysteine was determined with 5,5'-dithiobis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) and followed chemical principles of structure-reactivity relationship. Most reactive were sulforaphane, dimethylfumarate, chalcone 3 ((2E)-1-phenyl-3-pyrimidin-2-ylprop-2-en-1-one) and chalcone 7 (1,3-diphenylprop-2-yn-1-one). This result demonstrates that α,β-unsaturated carbonyl derivatives react with thiols differently. All compounds were also biologically active; however, expression of HO-1 was not only related to the chemical reactivity but also to the lipophilicity of the molecules which likely affected transmembrane uptake. Most efficient inducers of HO-1 expression were BAP, 4-hydroxynonenal and chalcone 1 (4-[(1E)-3-oxo-3-phenylprop-1-en-1-yl]benzonitrile), chalcone 5 ((2E)-1-phenyl-3-[4-(trifluoromethyl)-phenyl]prop-2-en-1-one) and chalcone 7.

Concepts: Thioester, Chemical reaction, Thiol, Cysteine, Organism, Glutathione


Abstract Cadmium (Cd(2+)) produce toxic effects on various tissues as kidney and liver, so several studies have focused to explore the effect produced by different doses and exposure times of this metal. However, little has been reported about the effect that Cd(2+) shows in the brain in vivo. Hence, this study aimed at comparing the effect of chronic Cd(2+) exposure on antioxidant defense systems of kidney and brain in rats. Six groups of male rats were employed; five were administered for 45 days with different doses of cadmium chloride (0.187, 0.375, 0.562, 0.937 and 1.125 mg/kg; i.p.) and the other was used as control. Free radicals (FR) were directly quantified by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy; malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH), and the activity-expression of superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and catalase (CAT) were also measured. The EPR results showed that there was no increase in FR content in kidney or brain. MDA and GSH levels increased in kidney but not in the brain. The SOD2 activity was not altered, but its expression decreased in both tissues. On the other hand, CAT activity and expression tended to increase at low doses and decrease at high doses in both tissues. Therefore, these results suggest that both in kidney and brain exist compensatory mechanisms able to avoid the toxic effects exerted by Cd(2) at these doses and exposure time.

Concepts: Glutathione peroxidase, Antioxidants, Cysteine, Reactive oxygen species, Glutathione, Antioxidant, Oxidative stress, Superoxide dismutase