Molecular Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 98–108 | Cite as

Cysteine Oxidation Targets Peroxiredoxins 1 and 2 for Exosomal Release through a Novel Mechanism of Redox-Dependent Secretion

  • Lisa Mullen
  • Eva-Maria Hanschmann
  • Christopher Horst Lillig
  • Leonore A. Herzenberg
  • Pietro Ghezzi
Research Article


Nonclassical protein secretion is of major importance as a number of cytokines and inflammatory mediators are secreted via this route. Current evidence indicates that there are several mechanistically distinct methods of nonclassical secretion. We have shown recently that peroxiredoxin (Prdx) 1 and Prdx2 are released by various cells upon exposure to inflammatory stimuli such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). The released Prdx then acts to induce production of inflammatory cytokines. However, Prdx1 and 2 do not have signal peptides and therefore must be secreted by alternative mechanisms, as has been postulated for the inflammatory mediators interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and high mobility group box-1 (HMGB1). We show here that circulating Prdx1 and 2 are present exclusively as disulfide-linked homodimers. Inflammatory stimuli also induce in vitro release of Prdx1 and 2 as disulfide-linked homodimers. Mutation of cysteines Cys51 or Cys172 (but not Cys70) in Prdx2, and Cys52 or Cys173 (but not Cys71 or Cys83) in Prdx1 prevented dimer formation and this was associated with inhibition of their TNF-α-induced release. Thus, the presence and oxidation of key cysteine residues in these proteins are a prerequisite for their secretion in response to TNF-α, and this release can be induced with an oxidant. By contrast, the secretion of the nuclear-associated danger signal HMGB1 is independent of cysteine oxidation, as shown by experiments with a cysteine-free HMGB1 mutant. Release of Prdx1 and 2 is not prevented by inhibitors of the classical secretory pathway, instead, both Prdx1 and 2 are released in exosomes from both human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells and monocytic cells. Serum Prdx1 and 2 also are associated with the exosomes. These results describe a novel pathway of protein secretion mediated by cysteine oxidation that underlines the importance of redox-dependent signaling mechanisms in inflammation.



Funded by the EU, European Regional Development Fund, France (Channel) England (PeReNE Project), and by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Mullen
    • 1
  • Eva-Maria Hanschmann
    • 2
  • Christopher Horst Lillig
    • 2
  • Leonore A. Herzenberg
    • 3
  • Pietro Ghezzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolBrightonUK
  2. 2.Ernst-Moritz Arndt UniversityGreifswaldGermany
  3. 3.Department of GeneticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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