Ethaselen: a potent mammalian thioredoxin reductase 1 inhibitor and novel organoselenium anticancer agent

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Abstract

Mammalian thioredoxin reductase 1 (TrxR1) is considered to be an important anticancer drug target and to be involved in both carcinogenesis and cancer progression. Here, we report that ethaselen, a novel organoselenium compound with anticancer activity, specifically binds to the unique selenocysteine–cysteine redox pair in the C-terminal active site of mammalian TrxR1. Ethaselen was found to be a potent inhibitor rather than an efficient substrate of mammalian TrxR1. It effectively inhibits wild-type mammalian TrxR1 at submicromolar concentrations with an initial mixed-type inhibition pattern. By using recombinant human TrxR1 variants and human glutathione reductase, we prove that ethaselen specifically targets the C-terminal but not the N-terminal active site of mammalian TrxR1. In A549 human lung cancer cells, ethaselen significantly suppresses cell viability in parallel with direct inhibition of TrxR1 activity. It does not, however, alter either the disulfide-reduction capability of thioredoxin or the activity of glutathione reductase. As a downstream effect of TrxR1 inactivation, ethaselen causes a dose-dependent thioredoxin oxidation and enhances the levels of cellular reactive oxygen species in A549 cells. Thus, we propose ethaselen as the first selenium-containing inhibitor of mammalian TrxR1 and provide evidence that selenium compounds can act as anticancer agents based on mammalian TrxR1 inhibition.

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