Thioredoxin Reductase Inhibitors as Potential Antitumors: Mercury Compounds Efficacy in Glioma Cells

Vanessa Pires, Isabella Bramatti, Michael Aschner, Vasco Branco, Cristina Carvalho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive and common form of glioma. GBM, like many other tumors, expresses high levels of redox proteins, such as thioredoxin (Trx) and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR), allowing tumor cells to cope with high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and resist chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Thus, tackling the activity of these enzymes is a strategy to reduce cell viability and proliferation and most importantly achieve tumor cell death. Mercury (Hg) compounds are among the most effective inhibitors of TrxR and Trx due to their high affinity for binding thiols and selenols. Moreover, organomercurials such as thimerosal, have a history of clinical use in humans. Thimerosal effectively crosses the blood–brain barrier (BBB), thus reaching effective concentrations for the treatment of GBM. Therefore, this study evaluated the effects of thimerosal (TmHg) and its metabolite ethylmercury (EtHg) over the mouse glioma cell line (GL261), namely, the inhibition of the thioredoxin system and the occurrence of oxidative cellular stress. The results showed that both TmHg and EtHg increased oxidative events and triggered cell death primarily by apoptosis, leading to a significant reduction in GL261 cell viability. Moreover, the cytotoxicity of TmHg and ETHg in GL261 was significantly higher when compared to temozolomide (TMZ). These results indicate that EtHg and TmHg have the potential to be used in GBM therapy since they strongly reduce the redox capability of tumor cells at exceedingly low exposure levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number889971
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
StatePublished - Jun 23 2022


  • ethylmercury
  • glioblastoma
  • thimerosal (thiomersal)
  • thioredoxin
  • thioredoxin reductase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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