Recent evidence implies that impaired metabolism of glutathione has a role in the pathogenesis of nephropathic cystinosis. This recessive inherited disorder is characterized by lysosomal cystine accumulation and results in renal Fanconi syndrome progressing to end stage renal disease in the majority of patients. The most common treatment involves intracellular cystine depletion by cysteamine, delaying the development of end stage renal disease by a yet elusive mechanism. However, cystine depletion does not arrest the disease nor cures Fanconi syndrome in patients, indicating involvement of other yet unknown pathologic pathways. Using a newly developed proximal tubular epithelial cell model from cystinotic patients, we investigate the effect of cystine accumulation and cysteamine on both glutathione and ATP metabolism. In addition to the expected increase in cystine and defective sodium-dependent phosphate reabsorption, we observed less negative glutathione redox status and decreased intracellular ATP levels. No differences between control and cystinosis cell lines were observed with respect to protein turnover, albumin uptake, cytosolic and mitochondrial ATP production, total glutathione levels, protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation. Cysteamine treatment increased total glutathione in both control and cystinotic cells and normalized cystine levels and glutathione redox status in cystinotic cells. However, cysteamine did not improve decreased sodium-dependent phosphate uptake. Our data implicate that cysteamine increases total glutathione and restores glutathione redox status in cystinosis, which is a positive side-effect of this agent next to cystine depletion. This beneficial effect points to a potential role of cysteamine as anti-oxidant for other renal disorders associated with enhanced oxidative stress.
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