Protein oxidation and proteolysis during aging and oxidative stress.
Previous studies in this laboratory have shown that glutamine synthetase (GS) and other key metabolic enzymes are inactivated by metal-catalyzed oxidation reactions in vitro. Oxidative inactivation renders these proteins highly susceptible to proteolysis, especially to a class of newly identified alkaline proteases which exhibit little or no activity against the native enzymes. These studies have suggested that oxidative inactivation may be an important marking step for intracellular protein degradation. Because many of the enzymes which have been shown to accumulate as inactive or less active forms during aging are readily inactivated by metal-catalyzed oxidation reactions in vitro, we have investigated the possible relationship between protein oxidation and proteolysis during aging and oxidative stress in vivo. Oxidized proteins accumulate in hepatocytes of rats exposed to 100% oxygen during the first 48 h of oxygen treatment. In the interval between 48 and 54 h the levels of oxidized proteins decline sharply. The specific activities of at least two liver enzymes, glutamine synthetase and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PDH), decrease during the 54-h experiment. GS and G-6-PDH specific immunological cross-reactivity remains high during the first 48 h of oxygen treatment and then declines in the interval between 48 and 54 h. During this same interval the levels of alkaline proteases which degrade oxidized proteins increase, indicating that these activities are induced or activated in response to oxidative stress and subsequently degrade the proteins which have become oxidized during the initial phase of oxygen treatment. Oxidized proteins accumulate progressively during aging in hepatocytes from rats 3 to 26 months old, with the largest incremental increase between 20 and 26 months. The increase in protein oxidation is correlated with a loss of specific activity of GS and G-6-PDH without a concomitant loss of immunological cross-reactivity. The levels of alkaline proteases which degrade oxidized proteins in hepatocytes from 26-month-old rats is only 20% that of 3-month-old rats, suggesting that oxidized proteins accumulate in hepatocytes from old rats, in part, because the proteases which degrade them are deficient or defective. moreover, when old rats are subjected to treatment with 100% oxygen, the levels of oxidized proteins continue to increase and the alkaline protease activity remains low, indicating that these protease activities are not increased in response to oxidative stress in old rats.