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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Tumor necrosis factor increases hepatocellular glutathione by transcriptional regulation of the heavy subunit chain of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase.

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is an inflammatory cytokine that causes cell injury by generation of oxidative stress. Since glutathione (GSH) is a key cellular antioxidant that detoxifies reactive oxygen species, the purpose of our work was to examine the regulation of cellular GSH, the expression of heavy subunit chain of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gamma-GCS-HS), and control of intracellular generation of reactive oxygen species in cultured rat hepatocytes treated with TNF. Exposure of cells to TNF (10,000 units/ml) resulted in depletion of cellular GSH levels (50-70%) and overproduction of hydrogen peroxide (2-3-fold) and lipid peroxidation. However, cells treated with lower doses of TNF (250-500 units/ml) exhibited increased levels of GSH (60-80% over control). TNF treatment increased (70-100%) the levels of gamma-GCS-HS mRNA, the catalytic subunit of the regulating enzyme in GSH biosynthesis. Furthermore, intact nuclei isolated from hepatocytes treated with TNF transcribed the gamma-GCS-HS gene to a greater extent than control cells, indicating that TNF regulates gamma-GCS-HS at the transcriptional level. The capacity to synthesize GSH de novo determined in cell-free extracts incubated with GSH precursors was greater (50-70%) in hepatocytes that were treated with TNF; however, the activity of GSH synthetase remained unaltered by TNF treatment indicating that TNF selectively increased the activity of gamma-GCS. Despite activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) by TNF, this transcription factor was not required for TNF-induced transcription of gamma-GCS-HS as revealed by deletion constructs of the gamma-GCS-HS promoter subcloned in a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter vector and transfected into HepG2 cells. In contrast, a construct containing AP-1 like/metal response regulatory elements increased chloramphenicol acetyltransferase activity upon exposure to TNF. Thus, TNF increases hepatocellular GSH levels by transcriptional regulation of gamma-GCS-HS gene, probably through AP-1/metal response element-like binding site(s) in its promoter, which may constitute a protective mechanism in the control of oxidative stress induced by inflammatory cytokines.[1]


  1. Tumor necrosis factor increases hepatocellular glutathione by transcriptional regulation of the heavy subunit chain of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. Morales, A., García-Ruiz, C., Miranda, M., Marí, M., Colell, A., Ardite, E., Fernández-Checa, J.C. J. Biol. Chem. (1997) [Pubmed]
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