A broad range of redox-regulated proteins undergo reversible disulfide bond formation on oxidation-prone cysteine residues. Heightened reactivity of the thiol groups in these cysteines also increases susceptibility to modification by organic electrophiles, a property that can be exploited in the study of redox networks. Here, we explored whether divinyl sulfone (DVSF), a thiol-reactive bifunctional electrophile, cross-links oxidant-sensitive proteins to their putative redox partners in cells. To test this idea, previously identified oxidant targets involved in oxidant defense (namely, peroxiredoxins, methionine sulfoxide reductases, sulfiredoxin, and glutathione peroxidases), metabolism, and proteostasis were monitored for cross-link formation following treatment of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with DVSF. Several proteins screened, including multiple oxidant defense proteins, underwent intermolecular and/or intramolecular cross-linking in response to DVSF. Specific redox-active cysteines within a subset of DVSF targets were found to influence cross-linking; in addition, DVSF-mediated cross-linking of its targets was impaired in cells first exposed to oxidants. Since cross-linking appeared to involve redox-active cysteines in these proteins, we examined whether potential redox partners became cross-linked to them upon DVSF treatment. Specifically, we found that several substrates of thioredoxins were cross-linked to the cytosolic thioredoxin Trx2 in cells treated with DVSF. However, other DVSF targets, like the peroxiredoxin Ahp1, principally formed intra-protein cross-links upon DVSF treatment. Moreover, additional protein targets, including several known to undergo S-glutathionylation, were conjugated via DVSF to glutathione. Our results indicate that DVSF is of potential use as a chemical tool for irreversibly trapping and discovering thiol-based redox partnerships within cells.
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