Peroxiredoxins: a historical overview and speculative preview of novel mechanisms and emerging concepts in cell signaling

Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Jun 15;38(12):1543-52. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2005.02.026. Epub 2005 Mar 24.


The observation that purified yeast glutamine synthetase is rapidly inactivated in a thiol-containing buffer yet retains activity in crude extracts containing the same thiol led to our discovery of an enzyme that protects against oxidation in a thiol-containing system. This novel antioxidant enzyme was shown to reduce hydroperoxides and, more recently, peroxynitrite with the use of electrons provided by a physiological thiol like thioredoxin. It defined a family of proteins, present in organisms from all kingdoms, that was named peroxiredoxin (Prx). All Prx enzymes contain a conserved Cys residue that undergoes a cycle of peroxide-dependent oxidation and thiol-dependent reduction during catalysis. Mammalian cells express six isoforms of Prx (Prx I to VI), which are classified into three subgroups (2-Cys, atypical 2-Cys, and 1-Cys) based on the number and position of Cys residues that participate in catalysis. The relative abundance of Prx enzymes in mammalian cells appears to protect cellular components by removing the low levels of peroxides produced as a result of normal cellular metabolism. During catalysis, the active site cysteine is occasionally overoxidized to cysteine sulfinic acid. Contrary to the general belief that oxidation to the sulfinic state is an irreversible process in cells, studies on the fate of the overoxidized Prx species revealed a mechanism by which the catalytically active thiol form is recovered. This sulfinic reduction is a slow, ATP-dependent process that is specific to 2-Cys Prx isoforms. This reversible overoxidation may represent an adaptation unique to eukaryotic cells that accommodates the intracellular messenger function of H(2)O(2), but experimental validation of such speculation is yet to come.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / physiology*
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase / metabolism
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Peroxidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Peroxidases / physiology*
  • Peroxiredoxin VI
  • Peroxiredoxins
  • Phosphorylation
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Isoenzymes
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Thioredoxins
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Peroxidases
  • Peroxiredoxin VI
  • Peroxiredoxins
  • peroxynitrite reductase
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase
  • Cysteine
  • cysteine sulfinic acid