Thioredoxin 2 (Trx2) is a mitochondrially localized antioxidant and antiapoptotic protein, whose functions are mainly dependent on the conserved cysteines at its redox active center. In the current study, we showed by mass spectrometry that a thiol alkylating agent, N-ethylmaleimide (NEM), alkylated a single cysteine residue in the active center of Trx2. The interaction between NEM and Trx2 in intact cells was confirmed by redox Western analysis. Overexpression of Trx2 in cultured 143B osteosarcoma cells caused increased sensitivity to NEM. Covalent modification by NEM resulted in a dominant-negative effect and increased the interaction between Trx2 and peroxiredoxin 3 (Prx3). Our data suggest that the alkylation of the essential thiol(s) of Trx2 has profound impact on the mitochondrial redox circuitry and that such effects are distinct from the responses to agents causing reversible disulfide bond formation between the vicinal dithiols in the active center.
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