Lung protection by a thiol-containing antioxidant: N-acetylcysteine.

Moldeus P, Cotgreave IA, Berggren M

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a thiol-containing compound which

nonenzymatically interacts and detoxifies reactive electrophiles and free radicals. NAC was shown to effectively protect human bronchial fibroblasts against the toxic effects of tobacco smoke condensates and the isolated perfused lung against the glutathione (GSH)-depleting effect of tobacco smoke. NAC was also shown to reduce the reactive oxygen intermediate hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and protect against the toxic effects of H2O2. In vivo studies, however, demonstrated that NAC when administered orally has very low bioavailability due to rapid metabolism to GSH among other metabolites. Thus, even though NAC is very effective in protecting cells of different origins from the toxicity of reactive components in tobacco smoke and reactive oxygen species, a direct scavenging effect by NAC in vivo, particularly when administered orally, does not seem likely. The bioavailability of NAC itself is very low when given this route. A more relevant mechanism in vivo for any protective effect NAC may exert against toxic species may be due to NAC acting as a precursor of GSH and facilitating its biosynthesis. GSH will then serve as the protective agent and detoxify reactive species both enzymatically and nonenzymatically.

PMID: 3809741, UI: 87119435

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