Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Toxicology and Cancer Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Daret K. St. Clair

Second Advisor

Dr. Haining Zhu


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that function to maintain the hematopoietic compartment through self-renewal and differentiation capacities, as well as their downstream progeny, are susceptible to transformation resulting in the generation of the leukemic stem cell (LSC). Chief in the factors that control HSC regulation and protection of the HSC compartment is the cellular redox environment. Deregulation of the Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cell (HSPC) redox environment results in loss of HSPC function and exhaustion. The characteristic developments of HSPC exhaustion via exposure to redox stress closely mirror phenotypic traits of hematopoietic malignancies, presenting the HSPC/LSC redox environment as a potential therapeutic target. While myelosuppression and HSPC exhaustion are detrimental side effects of classical chemotherapies, new approaches that differentially modify the HSPC/LSC redox environment may demonstrate LSC cytotoxicity while offering protection of normal HSPC function via differential activation of internal signaling pathways. Precisely how the redox environment and downstream signaling events are affected by these treatments remains unclear; thus highlighting the need for robust methods that evaluate the HSPC/LSC redox state. Because the glutathione (GSH), glutathione disulfide (GSSG) redox couple heavily contributes to the management of HSPC function and redox environment, characterizing the GSH/GSSG redox potential at the HSPC level would provide great insight for therapeutic opportunities. However, accurate measurement the GSH/GSSG redox potential within HSPCs/LSCs has been difficult due to their inherently low numbers. Here, we describe the development and validation of a sensitive method used for the direct and simultaneous quantitation of both oxidized and reduced GSH via LC-MS/MS. We use these methodologies to establish a difference in GSH-GSSG half-cell reduction potentials between normal and malignant HSPCs and examine the therapeutic effect of a redox active MnSOD mimetic, Mn(III) mesotetrakis (N-n-butoxyethylpyridinium-2yl) porphyrin, MnTnBuOE-2-PyP5+ (MnP), within these populations in vitro as well as within a human xenograft model in vivo. MnP demonstrates significant cytotoxic effects in several malignant models, while inducing an opposite cytoprotective effect in normal HSPC populations. The GSH/GSSG redox balance, specifically managed by glutathione reductase activity, is identified as a determining factor of MnP efficacy in various malignant populations. Treatment of the human myelodysplastic cell line (MDSL) offers mechanistic insights into MnP efficacy through hydrogen peroxide mediated activation of activator protein 1 (AP-1) signaling. We identify the redox dependent activation of JunB, a known regulator of normal myeloid lineage HSC proliferation, as a transcriptional mechanistic mediator of MnP treatment induced AP-1 signaling resulting in malignant cytotoxicity. The development of this novel method allowing for the identification of targetable differences between normal and malignant cell populations has provided insight to the underpinnings of potential redox based therapies. Additionally, the finding that MnP can target varying cellular redox states and exert selective cytotoxicity in malignant over normal populations by re-gaining lost control of AP-1 signaling demonstrates the potential for development of safe therapeutics within a variety of clinical applications.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)