We recently found that exposure of cells to different aminothiols promotes cystine uptake and leads to an increase of cellular glutathione by new biosynthesis (Issels et al., Biochem. Pharmacol., 37: 881–888, 1988). Therefore, we further investigated whether the known radioprotective and chemoprotective aminothiol derivative S-2-(3-aminopropylamino)ethylphosphorothioic acid (WR-2721) or its dephosphorylated form (WR-1065) will lead to similar effects. In order to convert WR-2721 to the free thiol compound (WR-1065) in vitro, the medium also contained 20 U/ml alkaline phosphatase (AP). For uptake studies a modified McCoy's 5A medium supplemented with 0.1 mm [35S]cystine was used. In Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) and Chinese hamster ovarian carcinoma (OvCa) cells, WR-2721 exposure alone did not increase the cystine uptake relative to that of control (untreated) cells, while WR-2721 + AP enhanced the uptake of cystine more than twofold in both cell lines. The increase of cystine uptake was dependent on the time of exposure (0–60 min) and the concentrations of WR-2721 (0–8 mm) + AP. Half-maximal uptake of cystine was observed at concentrations of 0.69 and 0.57 mm WR-2721 in CHO and OvCa cells, respectively. Determination of both reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSG) cellular glutathione levels after the exposure (0–300 min) to WR-2721 + AP in CHO cells showed a depletion of GSH to less than 10% of the pretreatment value and a 4-fold reduction of the GSH/GSSG ratio. In contrast, in OvCa cells the amount of total glutathione rather increased with no significant change of the GSH/GSSG ratio by the exposure to WR-2721 + AP. Further analysis using high-performance liquid chromatography of cell extracts revealed that the relative amount of incorporated [35S]-cystine into glutathione was increased similarly in both cell lines. The data show that precursor availability and new biosynthesis of glutathione is enhanced by the exposure to WR-2721 + AP in vitro despite the differential modulation of the cellular glutathione status in the two cell lines. These findings may have important implications for the use of aminothiols like WR-2721 in various cells and tissues in regard of their response to chemotherapeutic agents, ionizing radiation and/or hyperthermia.


This work was supported by Grant Is-B3/SFB 324 of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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