Tumor promoter benzoyl peroxide induces sulfhydryl oxidation in protein kinase C: Its reversibility is related to the cellular resistance to peroxide-induced cytotoxicity

Rayudu Gopalakrishna, Usha Gundimeda, Wayne B. Anderson, Nancy H. Colburn, Thomas J. Slaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Since tumor promoter benzoyl peroxide (BPO) mimics phorbol esters in some aspects, its effects on protein kinase C (PKC) were previously studied. However, in those studies due to the presence of thiol agents in the PKC preparations, the sensitive reaction of BPO with redox-active cysteine residues in PKC was not observed. In this study, by excluding thiol agents present in the purified PKC preparation, low concentrations of BPO modified PKC, resulting in the loss of both kinase activity and phorbol ester binding (IC50 = 0.2 to 0.5 μM). This modification, which was not dependent on transition metals, was totally blocked by a variety of thiol agents including GSH, which directly reacted with BPO. Substoichiometric amounts of BPO (0.4 mol/mol of PKC) oxidized two sulfhydryls in PKC and inactivated the enzyme which was readily reversed by dithiothreitol. The regulatory domain having zinc thiolate structures supporting the membrane-inserting region provided the specificity for PKC reaction with BPO, which partitioned into the membrane. Unlike H2O2, BPO did not induce the generation of the Ca2+/lipid-independent activated form of PKC. Other redox-sensitive enzymes such as protein kinase A, phosphorylase kinase, and protein phosphatase 2A required nearly 25- to 100-fold higher concentrations of BPO for inactivation. BPO also inactivated PKC in a variety of cell types. In the JB6 (30 P-) nonpromotable cell line and other normal cell lines, where BPO was more cytotoxic, it readily inactivated PKC due to a slow reversibility of this inactivation by the cell. However, in the JB6 (41 P+) promotable cell line, C3H10T1/2 and B16 melanoma cells, where BPO was less cytotoxic, it did not readily inactivate PKC due to a rapid reversibility of this inactivation by an endogenous mechanism. Nevertheless, BPO inactivated PKC at an equal rate in the homogenates prepared from all these cell types. Inclusion of NADPH reversed this inactivation in the homogenates to a different extent, presumably due to a difference in distribution of a protein disulfide reductase, which reverses this oxidative modification. BPO-induced modification of PKC occurred independent of the cellular status of GSH. However, externally added GSH and cell-impermeable thiol agents prevented the BPO-induced modification of PKC. Since BPO readily partitions into membranes, its reaction with redox-cycling thiols of membrane proteins such as PKC may trigger epigenetic events to prevent cytotoxicity, but favor tumor promotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-258
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Oxidation of cysteine residues
  • Protein kinase C
  • Tumor promoters
  • Zinc fingers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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