Sulfamethoxazole (SMX) is an effective drug for the management of opportunistic infections, but its use is limited by hypersensitivity reactions, particularly in HIV-infected patients. The oxidative metabolite SMX-nitroso (SMX-NO), is thought to be a proximate mediator of SMX hypersensitivity, and can be reduced in vitro by ascorbate or glutathione. Leukocytes from patients with SMX hypersensitivity show enhanced cytotoxicity from SMX metabolites in vitro; this finding has been attributed to a possible "detoxification defect" in some individuals. The purpose of this study was to determine whether variability in endogenous ascorbate or glutathione could be associated with individual differences in SMX-NO cytotoxicity. Thirty HIV-positive patients and 23 healthy control subjects were studied. Both antioxidants were significantly correlated with the reduction of SMX-NO to its hydroxylamine, SMX-HA, by mononuclear leukocytes, and both were linearly depleted during reduction. Controlled ascorbate supplementation in three healthy subjects increased leukocyte ascorbate with no change in glutathione, and significantly enhanced SMX-NO reduction. Ascorbate supplementation also decreased SMX-NO cytotoxicity compared to pre-supplementation values. Rapid reduction of SMX-NO to SMX-HA was associated with enhanced direct cytotoxicity from SMX-NO. When forward oxidation of SMX-HA back to SMX-NO was driven by the superoxide dismutase mimetic, Tempol, SMX-NO cytotoxicity was increased, without enhancement of adduct formation. This suggests that SMX-NO cytotoxicity may be mediated, at least in part, by redox cycling between SMX-HA and SMX-NO. Overall, these data indicate that endogenous ascorbate and glutathione are important for the intracellular reduction of SMX-NO, a proposed mediator of SMX hypersensitivity, and that redox cycling of SMX-HA to SMX-NO may contribute to the cytotoxicity of these metabolites in vitro.
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