Challenges in the evaluation of thiol-reactive inhibitors of human protein disulfide Isomerase

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This paper addresses how to evaluate the efficacy of the growing inventory of thiol-reactive inhibitors of mammalian protein disulfide Isomerase (PDI) enzymes under realistic concentrations of potentially competing thiol-containing peptides and proteins. For this purpose, we introduce a variant of the widely-used reductase assay by using a commercially-available cysteine derivative (BODIPY FL L-Cystine; BD-SS) that yields a 55-fold increase in fluorescence (excitation/emission; 490/513 nm) on scission of the disulfide bond. This plate reader-compatible method detects human PDI down to 5–10 nM, can utilize a range of thiol substrates (including 5 μM dithiothreitol, 10 μM reduced RNase thiols, and 5 mM glutathione; GSH), and can operate from pH 6–9.5 in a variety of buffers. PDI assays often employ low micromolar levels of substrates leading to ambiguities when thiol-directed inhibitors are evaluated. The present work utilizes 5 mM GSH for both pre-incubation and assay phases to more realistically reflect the high concentration of thiols that an inhibitor would encounter intracellularly. Extracellular PDI faces a much lower concentration of potentially competing thiols; to assess reductase activity under these conditions, the pre-reduced PDI is treated with inhibitor and then fluorescence increase upon reduction of BD-SS is followed in the absence of additional competing thiols. Both assay modes were tested with four mechanistically diverse PDI inhibitors. Two reversible reagents, 3,4-methylenedioxy-β-nitrostyrene (MNS) and the arsenical APAO, were found to be strong inhibitors of PDI in the absence of competing thiols, but were ineffective in the presence of 5 mM GSH. A further examination of the nitrostyrene showed that MNS not only forms facile Michael adducts with GSH, but also with the thiols of unfolded proteins (Kd values of 7 and <0.1 μM, respectively) suggesting the existence of multiple potential intracellular targets for this membrane-permeant reagent. The inhibition of PDI by the irreversible alkylating agent, the chloroacetamide 16F16, was found to be only modestly attenuated by 5 mM GSH. Finally, the thiol-independent flavonoid inhibitor quercetin-3-O-rutinoside was found to show equal efficacy in reoxidation and turnover assay types. This work provides a framework to evaluate inhibitors that may target the CxxC motifs of PDI and addresses some of the complexities in the interpretation of the behavior of thiol-directed reagents in vivo.

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