Aims. Anethole dithiolethione (ADT) is a marketed drug to treat xerostomia. Its mechanism of action is still unknown, but several preclinical studies indicate that it is able to increase intracellular glutathione (GSH) and protect against oxidative stress. Here, we investigated the molecular mechanisms behind these effects. Results. Oral treatment of rats confirmed the GSH enhancing properties of ADT; among the different organs examined in this study, only the kidney showed a significant GSH increase that was already observed at low-dose treatments. The increase in GSH correlated with a decrease in γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (γ-GT) activity of the different tissues. In vitro and ex vivo experiments with tubular renal cells and isolated perfused rat kidney showed that the cellular uptake of intact GSH was correlated with the extracellular concentrations of GSH. Conclusions. The prominent in vivopharmacological effect of ADT was a marked increase of GSH concentration in the kidney and a decrease of some systemic and renal biomarkers of oxidative stress. In particular, by inhibition of γ-GT activity, it decreased the production cysteinylglycine, a thiol that has prooxidant effects as the consequence of its autooxidation. The activity of ADT as GSH enhancer in both the circulation and the kidney was long-lasting. All these characteristics make ADT a promising drug to protect the kidney, and in particular proximal tubule cells, from xenobiotic-induced damage.
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