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Abstract

Redox homeostasis is essential for cell function and its disruption is associated with multiple pathologies. Redox balance is largely regulated by the relative concentrations of reduced and oxidized glutathione. In eukaryotic cells, this ratio is different in each cell compartment, and disruption of the mitochondrial redox balance has been specifically linked to metabolic diseases. Here, we report a probe that is selectively activated by endogenous nitroreductases, and releases tributylphosphine to trigger redox stress in mitochondria. Mechanistic studies revealed that, counterintuitively, release of a reducing agent in mitochondria rapidly induced oxidative stress through accumulation of superoxide. This response is mediated by glutathione, suggesting a link between reductive and oxidative stress. Furthermore, mitochondrial redox stress activates a cellular response orchestrated by transcription factor ATF4, which upregulates genes involved in glutathione catabolism.

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