Cellular and Molecular Biology


Mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase as a defense against cyanide toxication: Molecular properties and mode of detoxification

N. Nagahara1, T. Ito2 and M. Minami1

1Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo and 2Department of Pathology, Yokohama City University School of Medicine, Yokohama, Japan

Offprint requests to: Dr. Nagahara, Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, 1-1-5 Sendagi Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8602, Japan. Fax: +81-3-5685-3054. e-mail: noriyuki@nms.ac.jp


Summary. In cyanide poisoning, metalloproteins and carbonyl groups containing proteins are the main target molecules of nucleophilic attack by cyanide. To defend against this attack, cyanide is metabolized to less toxic thiocyanate via transsulfuration. This reaction is catalyzed by rhodanese and mercaptopyruvate sulfur-transferase (MST). Rhodanese is a well characterized mitochondrial enzyme. On the other hand, little was known about MST because it was unstable and difficult to purify. We first purified MST to homogeneity and cloned MST cDNA from rat liver to characterize MST. We also found that MST was an evolutionarily related enzyme of rhodanese. MST and rhodanese are widely distributed in rat tissues, and the kidney and liver prominently contain these enzymes. Immunohisto-chemical study revealed that MST is mainly distributed in proximal tubular epithelial cells in the kidney, pericentral hepatocytes in the liver, the perinuclear area of myocardial cells in the heart, and glial cells in the brain, and immunoelectron microscopical study concluded that MST was distributed in both cytoplasm and mitochondria, so that MST first detoxifies cyanide in cytoplasm and the cyanide which escapes from catalysis due to MST enters mitochondria. MST then detoxifies cyanide again in cooperation with rhodanese in mitochondria. Tissues other than the liver and kidney are more susceptible to cyanide toxicity because they contain less MST and rhodanese. Even in the same tissue, sensitivity to cyanide toxicity may differ according to the kind of cell. It is determined by a balance between the amount of proteins to be attacked and that of enzymes to defend. Histol. Histopathol. 14, 1277-1286 (1999)

Key words: Mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase, Rhodanese, Cyanide poisoning, Tissue distribution, Subcellular distribution, Immunohistochemistry, Immunoelectron microscopy

DOI: 10.14670/HH-14.1277