Aldose reductase is inactivated by physiological disulfides such as GSSG and cystine. To study the mechanism of disulfide-induced enzyme inactivation, we examined the rate and extent of enzyme inactivation using wild-type human aldose reductase and mutants containing cysteine-to-serine substitutions at positions 80 (C80S), 298 (C298S), and 303 (C303S). The wild-type, C80S, and C303S enzymes lost >80% activity following incubation with GSSG, whereas the C298S mutant was not affected. Loss of activity correlated with enzyme thiolation. The binary enzyme-NADP + complex was less susceptible to enzyme thiolation than the apoenzyme. These results suggest that thiolation of human aldose reductase occurs predominantly at Cys-298. Energy minimization of a hypothetical enzyme complex modified by glutathione at Cys-298 revealed that the glycyl carboxylate of glutathione may participate in a charged interaction with His-110 in a manner strikingly similar to that involving the carboxylate group of the potent aldose reductase inhibitor Zopolrestat. In contrast to what was observed with GSSG and cystine, cystamine inactivated the wild-type enzyme as well as all three cysteine mutants. This suggests that cystamine-induced inactivation of aldose reductase does not involve modification of cysteines exclusively at position 80, 298, or 303.
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