Wood frogs inhabit a broad range across North America, extending from the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains to the northern boreal forest. Remarkably, they can survive the winter in a frozen state, where as much as 70% of their body water is converted into ice. Whilst in the frozen state, their hearts cease to pump blood, causing their cells to experience ischemia, which can dramatically increase the production of reactive oxygen species within the cell. To overcome this, wood frogs have elevated levels of glutathione, a primary antioxidant. We examined the regulation of glutathione reductase, the enzyme involved in recycling glutathione, in both the frozen and unfrozen (control) state. Glutathione reductase activity from both the control and frozen state showed a dramatic reduction in substrate specificity (Km) for oxidized glutathione (50%) when measured in the presence of glucose (300 mmol l-1) and a increase (157%) when measured in the presence of levels of urea (75 mmol l-1) encountered in the frozen state. However, when we tested the synergistic effect of urea and glucose simultaneously, we observed a substantial reduction in the Km for oxidized glutathione (43%) to a value similar to that with glucose alone. In fact, we found no observable differences in the kinetic and structural properties of glutathione reductase between the two states. Therefore, a significant increase in the affinity for oxidized glutathione in the presence of endogenous levels of glucose suggests that increased glutathione recycling may occur as a result of passive regulation of glutathione reductase by rising levels of glucose during freezing.

Antioxidants, Enzyme kinetics, Freezing, Metabolic rate depression, Phosphorylation
Journal of Experimental Biology
Department of Biology

Dawson, N.J. (Neal J.), & Storey, K. (2017). Passive regeneration of glutathione: Glutathione reductase regulation in the freeze-tolerant North American wood frog, Rana sylvatica. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220(17), 3162–3171. doi:10.1242/jeb.159475