Physiological functions of thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase

Eur J Biochem. 2000 Oct;267(20):6102-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2000.01701.x.


Thioredoxin, thioredoxin reductase and NADPH, the thioredoxin system, is ubiquitous from Archea to man. Thioredoxins, with a dithiol/disulfide active site (CGPC) are the major cellular protein disulfide reductases; they therefore also serve as electron donors for enzymes such as ribonucleotide reductases, thioredoxin peroxidases (peroxiredoxins) and methionine sulfoxide reductases. Glutaredoxins catalyze glutathione-disulfide oxidoreductions overlapping the functions of thioredoxins and using electrons from NADPH via glutathione reductase. Thioredoxin isoforms are present in most organisms and mitochondria have a separate thioredoxin system. Plants have chloroplast thioredoxins, which via ferredoxin-thioredoxin reductase regulates photosynthetic enzymes by light. Thioredoxins are critical for redox regulation of protein function and signaling via thiol redox control. A growing number of transcription factors including NF-kappaB or the Ref-1-dependent AP1 require thioredoxin reduction for DNA binding. The cytosolic mammalian thioredoxin, lack of which is embryonically lethal, has numerous functions in defense against oxidative stress, control of growth and apoptosis, but is also secreted and has co-cytokine and chemokine activities. Thioredoxin reductase is a specific dimeric 70-kDa flavoprotein in bacteria, fungi and plants with a redox active site disulfide/dithiol. In contrast, thioredoxin reductases of higher eukaryotes are larger (112-130 kDa), selenium-dependent dimeric flavoproteins with a broad substrate specificity that also reduce nondisulfide substrates such as hydroperoxides, vitamin C or selenite. All mammalian thioredoxin reductase isozymes are homologous to glutathione reductase and contain a conserved C-terminal elongation with a cysteine-selenocysteine sequence forming a redox-active selenenylsulfide/selenolthiol active site and are inhibited by goldthioglucose (aurothioglucose) and other clinically used drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase / chemistry
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase / genetics
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase / metabolism*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism*


  • Thioredoxins
  • Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase