Oxidized proteins in erythrocytes are rapidly degraded by the adenosine triphosphate-dependent proteolytic system

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Science  26 Feb 1982:
Vol. 215, Issue 4536, pp. 1107-1109
DOI: 10.1126/science.7038874


The rate of protein degradation in rabbit erythrocytes in normally very low. However, when cells were exposed to agents that oxidize cell proteins (nitrite or phenylhydrazine), the degradation of erythrocyte proteins to amino acids increased 7- to 33-fold. This effect was inhibited by the reducing agent methylene blue. Stimulation of proteolysis also occurred in cell extracts and resulted from the production of substrates (damaged proteins) rather than from activation of proteases. Inhibitors of glycolysis and of the soluble adenosine triphosphate-dependent proteolytic pathway decreased the protein degradation induced by nitrite, whereas inhibitors of lysosomal proteolysis had no effect. Thus, the adenosine triphosphate-dependent proteolytic system is present in mature red cells where it may help protect against the accumulation of proteins damaged by oxidation or other means.