Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between cellular toxicity of cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (II) (cisplatin, CDDP) and inhibited intracellular activity of the thioredoxin system, i.e., thioredoxin (Trx), thioredoxin reductase (TrxR), and NADPH. Conversely, increased cellular activity of the Trx system confers resistance to CDDP. In this study, we have analyzed the interaction of CDDP with Trx and TrxR in order to clarify the mechanism. The inhibition with time-dependent kinetics by CDDP of NADPH-reduced (but not oxidized) TrxR was irreversible, strongly suggesting covalent modification of the reduced selenocysteine-containing active site. Assuming second order kinetics, the rate constant of TrxR inhibition by CDDP was 21 +/- 3 M(-1) x s(-1). Transplatin was found to be an even more efficient inhibitor, with a second order rate constant of 84 +/- 22 M(-1) x s(-1), whereas carboplatin (up to 1 mM) gave no inhibition of the enzyme under the same conditions. Escherichia coli Trx or human or bacterial glutaredoxin (Grx) activities were in comparison only slightly or not at all inhibited by either CDDP, transplatin, or carboplatin. However, glutaredoxins were found to be inhibited by the purified glutathione adduct of cisplatin, bis-(glutathionato)platinum(II) (GS-Platinum complex, GS-Pt), with an IC50 = 350 microM in the standard beta-hydroxyethyl disulfide-coupled assay for human Grx. Also the mammalian Trx system was inhibited by GS-Pt with similar efficiency (IC(50) = 325 microM), whereas neither the E. coli Trx system nor glutathione reductase were inhibited. Formation of GS-Pt is a major route for cellular elimination of CDDP. The fact that GS-Pt inhibits the mammalian Trx as well as Grx systems shows that CDDP may exert effects at several stages of its metabolism, including after conjugation with GSH, which are intimately linked with the cellular disulfide/dithiol redox regulatory systems.