The physiological importance of reactive sulfur species (RSS) such as cysteine hydropersulfide (CysSSH) has been increasingly recognized in recent years. We have established a reactive sulfur metabolomics analysis by using RSS metabolic profiling, which revealed appreciable amounts of RSS generated endogenously and ubiquitously in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The chemical nature of these polysulfides is not fully understood, however, because of their reactive or complicated redox-active properties. In our study here, we determined that tyrosine and a hydroxyphenyl-containing derivative, β-(4-hydroxyphenyl)ethyl iodoacetamide (HPE-IAM), had potent stabilizing effects on diverse polysulfide residues formed in CysSSH-related low-molecular-weight species, e.g., glutathione polysulfides (oxidized glutathione trisulfide and oxidized glutathione tetrasulfide). The protective effect against degradation was likely caused by the inhibitory activity of hydroxyphenyl residues of tyrosine and HPE-IAM against alkaline hydrolysis of polysulfides. This hydrolysis occurred via heterolytic scission triggered by the hydroxyl anion acting on polysulfides that are cleaved into thiolates and sulfenic acids, with the hydrolysis being enhanced by alkylating reagents (e.g. IAM) and dimedone. Moreover, tyrosine prevented electrophilic degradation occurring in alkaline pH. The polysulfide stabilization induced by tyrosine or the hydroxyphenyl moiety of HPE-IAM will greatly improve our understanding of the chemical properties of polysulfides and may benefit the sulfur metabolomics analysis if it can be applied successfully to any kind of biological samples, including clinical specimens.
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