Glutathione-dependent reduction of arsenate in human erythrocytes - A process independent of purine nucleoside phosphorylase

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Reduction of arsenate (AsV) to the more toxic arsenite (AsIII) is toxicologically important, yet its mechanism is unknown. To clarify this, AsV reduction was investigated in human red blood cells (RBC), as they possess a simple metabolism. RBC were incubated with AsV in gluconate buffer, and the formed AsIII was quantified by high performance liquid chromatography-hydride generation-atomic fluorescence spectrometry (HPLC-HG-AFS). The observations are compatible with the following conclusions. (1) Human RBC reduce AsV intracellularly, because 4,4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2, 2′-disulfonic acid (DIDS, inhibitor of the chloride-bicarbonate exchanger, which also mediates phosphate and AsV uptake), as well as chloride and phosphate, countered AsIII formation. (2) Purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP), whose AsV reductase activity has been directly demonstrated, cannot be a physiologically relevant AsV reductase, because its inhibitor (BCX-1777) failed to decrease the basal erythrocytic AsV reduction, although it prevented the increase in AsIII formation caused by artificial activation of PNP with inosine and dithiothreitol. (3) The basal (PNP-independent) AsV reduction requires glutathione (GSH), because the GSH depletor diethylmaleate strongly diminished AsIII formation. (4) The erythrocytic AsV reduction apparently depends on NAD(P) supply, because oxidants of NAD(P)H (i.e., pyruvate, ferricyanide, methylene blue, nitrite, tert-butylhydroperoxide, dehydroascorbate, 4-dimethylaminophenol) enhanced AsIII formation from AsV. The oxidant-stimulated AsV reduction is PNP-independent, because BCX-1777 failed to affect it, but is GSH-dependent, because diethylmaleate impaired it. (5) Pyruvate-induced glucose depletion, which causes NAD enrichment in the erythrocytes at the expense of NADH, enhanced AsV reduction. This suggests that the erythrocytic AsV reduction requires both NAD supply and operation of the lower part of the glycolytic pathway starting from glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) that, unlike the upper part, remains fed with substrates originating from the degradation of 2,3-bisphosphoglycerate in RBC depleted of glucose by pyruvate. (6) Fluoride, which arrests glycolysis at enolase and thus prevents NAD formation, inhibited AsV reduction in glucose-sufficient RBC, but increased it in glucose-deficient (NAD-enriched) cells, suggesting that the section of glycolysis coupled to AsV reduction lies between GAPDH and enolase. In conclusion, besides the artificial PNP-dependent AsV reduction, human RBC contain a PNP-independent AsV-reducing mechanism. This appears to require the supply of GSH, NAD, and substrate to one or more of the glycolytic enzymes localized between GAPDH and enolase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-428
Number of pages10
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2004


  • Arsenate
  • Arsenite
  • Erythrocyte
  • Glutathione
  • Purine nucleoside phosphorylase
  • Reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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