Oxidative species and S-glutathionyl conjugates in the apoptosis induction by allyl thiosulfate

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Natural allyl sulfur compounds show antiproliferative effects on tumor cells, but the biochemical mechanisms underlying the antitumorigenic properties of the organ sulfur compounds are not yet fully understood. Sodium 2-propenyl-thiosulfate is a garlic water-soluble organo-sulfane sulfur compound able to promote apoptosis in cancer cells, affecting the ‘managing’ of the redox state in the cell. Our studies show that sodium 2-propenyl-thiosulfate reacts spontaneously with reduced glutathione at physiological pH, leading to the formation of S-allyl-mercapto-glutathione, radicals and peroxyl species, which are able to induce inhibition of enzymes with cysteine in the catalytic site, such as sulfurtransferases. S-Allyl-mercapto-glutathione was purified and characterized by NMR and MS, and its cytotoxic effect at 500 μm on HuT 78 cells was analyzed, showing activation of the p38–MAPK pathway. Many allyl sulfur compounds are also able to promote chemoprevention by induction of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes, inducing down-activation or detoxification of the carcinogens. Thus, the effects of the S-allyl-mercapto-glutathione on proteins involved in the cellular detoxification system, such as glutathione S-transferase, have been evaluated both in vitro and in HuT 78 cells. Although the antitumor properties of water-soluble sulfur compounds may arise from several mechanisms and it is likely that more cellular events occur simultaneously, a relevant role is played by the formation of both reduced glutathione conjugates and radical species that affect the activity of the thiol-proteins involved in fundamental cellular processes.

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