Thioredoxin catalyzes the S-nitrosation of the caspase-3 active site cysteine

Nat Chem Biol. 2005 Aug;1(3):154-8. doi: 10.1038/nchembio720. Epub 2005 Jul 10.


Nitric oxide (NO) signaling through the formation of cGMP is well established; however, there seems to be an increasing role for cGMP-independent NO signaling. Although key molecular details remain unanswered, S-nitrosation represents an example of cGMP-independent NO signaling. This modification has garnered recent attention as it has been shown to modulate the function of several important biochemical pathways. Although an analogy to O-phosphorylation can be drawn, little is known about protein nitrosothiol regulation in vivo. In solution, NO readily reacts with oxygen to yield a nitrosating agent, but this process alone provides no specificity for nitrosation. This lack of specificity is exemplified by the in vitro poly-S-nitrosation of caspase-3 (Casp-3, ref. 6) and the ryanodine receptor. Previous in vivo work with Casp-3 suggests that a protein-assisted process may be responsible for selective S-nitrosation of the catalytic cysteine (Cys163). We demonstrated that a single cysteine in thioredoxin (Trx) is capable of a targeted, reversible transnitrosation reaction with Cys163 of Casp-3. A greater understanding of how S-nitrosation is mediated has broad implications for cGMP-independent signaling. The example described here also suggests a new role for Trx in the regulation of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / chemistry*
  • Catalysis
  • Cysteine / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitrosation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thioredoxins / chemistry*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Thioredoxins
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases
  • Cysteine