Growing evidence has indicated that cellular reduction/oxidation (redox) status regulates various aspects of cellular function. Oxidative stress can elicit positive responses such as cellular proliferation or activation, as well as negative responses such as growth inhibition or cell death. Cellular redox status is maintained by intracellular redox-regulating molecules, including thioredoxin (TRX). TRX is a small multifunctional protein that has a redox-active disulfide/dithiol within the conserved active site sequence: Cys-Gly-Pro-Cys. Adult T cell leukemia–derived factor (ADF), which we originally defined as an IL-2 receptor α-chain/Tac inducer produced by human T cell lymphotrophic virus-I (HTLV-I)–transformed T cells, has been identified as human TRX. TRX/ADF is a stress-inducible protein secreted from cells. TRX/ADF has both intracellular and extracellular functions as one of the key regulators of signaling in the cellular responses against various stresses. Extracellularly, TRX/ADF shows a cytoprotective activity against oxidative stress–induced apoptosis and a growth-promoting effect as an autocrine growth factor. Intracellularly, TRX/ADF is involved in the regulation of protein-protein or protein–nucleic acid interactions through the reduction/oxidation of protein cysteine residues. For example, TRX/ADF translocates from the cytosol into the nucleus by a variety of cellular stresses, to regulate the expression of various genes through the redox factor-1 (Ref-1)/APEX. Further studies to clarify the regulatory roles of TRX/ADF and its target molecules may elucidate the intracellular signaling pathways in the responses against various stresses. The concept of “redox regulation” is emerging as an understanding of the novel mechanisms in the pathogenesis of several disorders, including viral infections, immunodeficiency, malignant transformation, and degenerative disease.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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