Author(s): Mustacich D, Powis G
The mammalian thioredoxin reductases (TrxRs) are a family of selenium-containing pyridine nucleotide-disulphide oxidoreductases with mechanistic and sequence identity, including a conserved -Cys-Val-Asn-Val-Gly-Cys- redox catalytic site, to glutathione reductases. TrxRs catalyse the NADPH-dependent reduction of the redox protein thioredoxin (Trx), as well as of other endogenous and exogenous compounds. The broad substrate specificity of mammalian TrxRs is due to a second redox-active site, a C-terminal -Cys-SeCys- (where SeCys is selenocysteine), that is not found in glutathione reductase or Escherichia coli TrxR. There are currently two confirmed forms of mammalian TrxRs, TrxR1 and TrxR2, and it is possible that other forms will be identified. The availability of Se is a key factor determining TrxR activity both in cell culture and in vivo, and the mechanism(s) for the incorporation of Se into TrxRs, as well as the regulation of TrxR activity, have only recently begun to be investigated. The importance of Trx to many aspects of cell function make it likely that TrxRs also play a role in protection against oxidant injury, cell growth and transformation, and the recycling of ascorbate from its oxidized form. Since TrxRs are able to reduce a number of substrates other than Trx, it is likely that additional biological effects will be discovered for TrxR. Furthermore, inhibiting TrxR with drugs may lead to new treatments for human diseases such as cancer, AIDS and autoimmune diseases.