Toxic aldehydes, such as 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (4HNE) and 2-nonenal (2NE), formed during lipid peroxidation have been isolated and implicated in the cytotoxic effects of oxidative stress. We have investigated the cytotoxicity and metabolism of 4HNE and 2NE in control (HA-1) cells and in two H2O2-resistant Chinese hamster fibroblast cell lines. The H2O2-resistant cells were found to be significantly more resistant than HA-1 cells to the cytotoxicity of 4HNE, as determined by clonogenic cell survival (dose-modifying factors at 10% isosurvival of 2.0-3.0). The H2O2-resistant cells demonstrated a significant 2-3-fold increase in the amount of 4HNE removed (mol/cell) from culture media containing 72 microM-4HNE when compared with HA-1 cells. The enhanced ability of H2O2-resistant cells to metabolize 4HNE was abolished by heating the cells at 100 degrees C for 45 min. Similar results were obtained with 2NE. Total glutathione and glutathione transferase activity, believed to be involved in cellular detoxification of 4HNE, were found to be significantly increased (2-3-fold) in the resistant cells when compared with the HA-1 cells. These results show that cell lines adapted and/or selected in a highly peroxidative environment are also resistant to the cytotoxicity of aldehydes formed during lipid peroxidation. This resistance appears to be related to increased cellular metabolism of these aldehydes, possibly through the glutathione transferase system. These findings suggest that the formation of aldehydes due to lipid peroxidation may contribute significantly to the mechanisms of oxidant-induced injury and the selective pressure exerted by H2O2-mediated cytotoxicity in culture.

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