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Selective inhibition of endogenous antioxidants with Auranofin causes mitochondrial oxidative stress which can be countered by selenium supplementation.

  • Radenkovic, Filip1
  • Holland, Olivia1
  • Vanderlelie, Jessica J1
  • Perkins, Anthony V2
  • 1 School of Medical Science, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Southport 9726, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 2 School of Medical Science, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Southport 9726, Queensland, Australia. Electronic address: [email protected] , (Australia)
Published Article
Biochemical pharmacology
New York, NY : Elsevier Science Inc
Publication Date
Dec 15, 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2017.09.009
PMID: 28947276


Auranofin is a thiol-reactive gold (I)-containing compound with potential asa chemotherapeutic. Auranofin has the capacity to selectively inhibit endogenous antioxidant enzymes thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), resulting in oxidative stress and the initiation of a pro-apoptotic cascade. The effect of Auranofin exposure on TrxR and GPx, and the potential for cellular protection through selenium supplementation was examined in the non-cancerous human cell line Swan-71. Auranofin exposure resulted in a concentration dependent differential inhibition of selenoprotein antioxidants. Significant inhibition of TrxR was observed at 20nM Auranofin with inhibition of GPx from 10µM. Significant increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) were associated with antioxidant inhibition at Auranofin concentrations of 100nM (TrxR inhibition) and 10µM (TrxR and GPx inhibition), respectively. Evaluation of mitochondrial respiration demonstrated significant reductions in routine and maximal respiration at both 100nM and 10μM Auranofin. Auranofin treatment at concentrations of 10μM and higher concentrations resulted in a ∼68% decrease in cellular viability and was associated with elevations in pro-apoptotic markers cytochrome c flux control factor (FCFc) at concentration of 100nM and mitochondrial Bax at 10μM. The supplementation of selenium (100nM) prior to treatment had a generalized protective affect through the restoration of antioxidant activity with a significant increase in TrxR and GPx activity, a significant reduction in ROS and associated improvement in mitochondrial respiration and cellular viability (10µM ∼48% increase). Selenium supplementation reduced the FCFc at low doses of Auranofin (<10μM) however no effect was noted on either FCFc or Bax at concentrations above 10μM. The inhibition of antioxidant systems in non-cancerous cells by Auranofin is strongly dose dependent, and this inhibition can be altered by selenium exposure. Therefore, Auranofin dose and the selenium status of patients are important considerations in the therapeutic use of Auranofin as an agent of chemosensitization.

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