This study was aimed at examining the effects of manipulating the carbohydrate source of the culture medium on the cellular sensitivity of epithelial cells to an oxidative attack. Our rationale was that substituting galactose for glucose in culture media would remove the protection afforded by glucose utilization in two major metabolic pathways, i.e. anaerobic glycolysis and/or the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), which builds up cellular reducing power. Indeed, we show that the polarized human colonic epithelial cell line HT29-Cl.16E was sensitive to the deleterious effects of the NO donor PAPANONOate [3-(2-hydroxy-2-nitroso-1-propylhydrazino)-1-propanamine] only in galactose-containing medium. In such medium NO attack led to cytotoxic and apoptotic cell death, associated with formation of derivatives of NO auto-oxidation (collectively termed NOx) and peroxynitrite, leading to intracellular GSH depletion and nitrotyrosine formation. The addition of 2-deoxyglucose, a non-glycolytic substrate, to galactose-fed cells protected HT29-Cl.16E cells from NO attack and maintained control GSH levels through its metabolic utilization in the PPP, as shown by 14CO2 production from 2-deoxy[1-14C]glucose. Therefore, increasing the availability of reducing equivalents without interfering with energy metabolism is able to prevent NO-induced cell injury. Finally, this background provides the conceptual framework for establishing nutritional manipulation of cellular metabolic pathways that could provide new means for (i) deciphering the mechanisms of cell injury by reactive nitrogen species and reactive oxygen species at the whole-cell level and (ii) establishing the hierarchy of intracellular defence mechanisms against these attacks.

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