The glutathione transferases (GSTs) are a family of ubiquitous enzymes that catalyze the conjugation of reduced glutathione (GSH) with reactive electrophiles. Rat vascular tissue contains GST isoforms that represent a major cellular defense mechanism against atherogenic α,β-unsaturated aldehydes (Misra et al., Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 133, 27-33, 1995). In this study we examined the role of GSTs in providing protection to cultured neonatal vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) from the α,β-unsaturated carbonyl cardiovascular toxins, allylamine and its metabolite, acrolein. Confluent cultured cells were exposed to 2 to 10 μM allylamine (a cardiovascular toxin that is metabolized in vivo and in vitro by VSMCs to the reactive aldehyde, acrolein) or to acrolein (2-10 μM) for 48 h; dose- cytotoxicity curves were generated utilizing a tetrazolium-dependent cytotoxicity assay. Concommittant treatment with sulfasalazine, an established inhibitor of GST, was found to markedly increase allylamine- or acrolein-induced cytotoxicity, decreasing the LC50 by two- to threefold at 50 to 100 μM sulfasalazine. A clonogenic survival assay in VSMCs exposed to these compounds for 4 h confirmed lethal toxicity and enhanced toxicity following cotreatment with sulfasalazine. Isobologram analysis (which statistically defines the limits of additivity of two independent treatments) showed that the sulfasalazine effect on both allylame and acrolein cytotoxicity was supraadditive, or synergistic. Sulfasalazine was not cytotoxic to VSMCs in the range of concentrations that augmented acrolein or allylamine cytoxicity; total GST activity was inhibited, however, in a dose- dependent manner in that range. GST purified by GSH-affinity chromatography from pelleted untreated cells gave specific activities and kinetic constants consistent with those previously reported for rat aorta total GSTs. The catalytic efficiency (K(cat)/V(m)) was found to be much greater for 4- hydroxy-2-nonenal than for 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (0.058 vs 0.4 s-1 mM-1). Western blot of purified total GSTs using antibodies against rec- mGSTA4-4 revealed a single band at 25 kDa, confirming the presence of a GST isozyme immunologically similar to rat GST8-8, which is known to utilize α,β-unsaturated carbonyls as preferred substrates. Our data indicate that GSTs are an important defense in the vascular media, protecting blood vessels against α,β-unsaturated carbonyl cardiovascular toxins that are involved in initiating atherosclerotic lesions.
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