OBJECTIVE: Yeast, like other eukaryotes, contains a complete mitochondrial thioredoxin system comprising a thioredoxin (Trx3) and a thioredoxin reductase (Trr2). Mitochondria are a main source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in eukaryotic organisms, and this study investigates the role of Trx3 in regulating cell death during oxidative stress conditions. RESULTS: We have previously shown that the redox state of mitochondrial Trx3 is buffered by the glutathione redox couple such that oxidized mitochondrial Trx3 only accumulates in mutants simultaneously lacking Trr2 and a glutathione reductase (Glr1). We show here that the redox state of mitochondrial Trx3 is important for yeast growth and its oxidation in a glr1 trr2 mutant induces programmed cell death. Apoptosis is dependent on the Yca1 metacaspase, since loss of YCA1 abrogates cell death induced by oxidized Trx3. Our data also indicate a role for a mitochondrial 1-cysteine (Cys) peroxiredoxin (Prx1) in the oxidation of Trx3, since Trx3 does not become oxidized in glr1 trr2 mutants or in a wild-type strain exposed to hydrogen peroxide in the absence of PRX1. METHODS: This study provides evidence that the redox state of a mitochondrial thioredoxin regulates yeast apoptosis in response to oxidative stress conditions. Moreover, the results identify a signaling pathway, where the thioredoxin system functions in both antioxidant defense and in controlling cell death. CONCLUSIONS: Mitochondrial Prx1 functions as a redox signaling molecule that oxidizes Trx3 and promotes apoptosis. This would mean that under conditions where Prx1 cannot detoxify mitochondrial ROS, it induces cell death to remove the affected cells.
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