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Cystine, an oxidized form of cysteine (Cys), is imported into cells via the protein xCT, which is also associated with the export of glutamate as the counter amino acid. In the current study, we attempted to rationalize roles of xCT in the livers of male mice. While xCT was not expressed in the livers of ordinary mice, it was induced under conditions of glutathione depletion, caused by the administration of acetaminophen (AAP). To differentiate the role between xCT and the transsulfuration pathway on the supply of Cys, we employed an inhibitor of the enzyme cystathionine γ-lyase, propargylglycine (PPG). This inhibitor caused a marked aggravation in AAP-induced hepatic damage and the mortality of the xCT-/- mice was increased to a greater extent than that for the xCT+/+ mice. While a PPG pretreatment had no effect on liver condition or Cys levels, the administration of AAP to the PPG-pretreated mice reduced the levels of Cys as well as glutathione to very low levels in both the xCT+/+ and xCT-/- mice. These findings indicate that the transsulfuration pathway plays a major role in replenishing Cys when glutathione levels are low. Moreover, an ascorbic acid insufficiency, induced by Akr1a ablation, further aggravated the AAP-induced liver damage in the case of the xCT deficiency, indicating that glutathione and ascorbic acid function cooperatively in protecting the liver. In conclusion, while the transsulfuration pathway plays a primary role in supplying Cys to the redox system in the liver, xCT is induced in cases of emergencies, by compensating for Cys supply systems.


Eun Sil Kang, Jaeyong Lee, Takujiro Homma, Toshihiro Kurahashi, Sho Kobayashi, Atsunori Nabeshima, Sohsuke Yamada, Han Geuk Seo, Satoshi Miyata, Hideyo Sato, Junichi Fujii. xCT deficiency aggravates acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity under inhibition of the transsulfuration pathway. Free radical research. 2017 Jan;51(1):80-90

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PMID: 28081640

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