Cross talk between two antioxidant systems, Thioredoxin and DJ-1: consequences for cancer

Prahlad V. Raninga1,2, Giovanna Di Trapani1, Kathryn F. Tonissen1,2

1 School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld, Australia

2 Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld, Australia


Kathryn F. Tonissen, email:

Keywords: Thioredoxin, DJ-1, redox signalling, oxidative stress, antioxidants, cancer

Received: December 4, 2013 Accepted: December 31, 2013 Published: December 31, 2013


Oxidative stress, which is associated with an increased concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS), is involved in the pathogenesis of numerous diseases including cancer. In response to increased ROS levels, cellular antioxidant molecules such as thioredoxin, peroxiredoxins, glutaredoxins, DJ-1, and superoxide dismutases are upregulated to counteract the detrimental effect of ROS. However, cancer cells take advantage of upregulated antioxidant molecules for protection against ROS-induced cell damage. This review focuses on two antioxidant systems, Thioredoxin and DJ-1, which are upregulated in many human cancer types, correlating with tumour proliferation, survival, and chemo-resistance. Thus, both of these antioxidant molecules serve as potential molecular targets to treat cancer. However, targeting one of these antioxidants alone may not be an effective anti-cancer therapy. Both of these antioxidant molecules are interlinked and act on similar downstream targets such as NF-кβ, PTEN, and Nrf2 to exert cytoprotection. Inhibiting either thioredoxin or DJ-1 alone may allow the other antioxidant to activate downstream signalling cascades leading to tumour cell survival and proliferation. Targeting both thioredoxin and DJ-1 in conjunction may completely shut down the antioxidant defence system regulated by these molecules. This review focuses on the cross-talk between thioredoxin and DJ-1 and highlights the importance and consequences of targeting thioredoxin and DJ-1 together to develop an effective anti-cancer therapeutic strategy.

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