Redox State of Glutathione in Human Plasma

Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Feb 15;28(4):625-35. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(99)00275-0.


Thiol and disulfide forms of glutathione (GSH) and cysteine (Cys) were measured in plasma from 24 healthy individuals aged 25-35 and redox potential values (E(h)) for thiol/disulfide couples were calculated using the Nernst equation. Although the concentration of GSH (2.8 +/- 0.9 microM) was much greater than that of GSSG (0.14 +/- 0.04 microM), the redox potential of the GSSG/2GSH pool (-137 +/- 9 mV) was considerably more oxidized than values for tissues and cultured cells (-185 to -258 mV). This indicates that a rapid oxidation of GSH occurs upon release into plasma. The difference in values between individuals was remarkably small, suggesting that the rates of reduction and oxidation in the plasma are closely balanced to maintain this redox potential. The redox potential for the Cys and cystine (CySS) pool (-80 +/- 9 mV) was 57 mV more oxidized, showing that the GSSG/2GSH and the CySS/2Cys pools are not in redox equilibrium in the plasma. Potentials for thiol/disulfide couples involving CysGly were intermediate between the values for these couples. Regression analyses showed that the redox potentials for the different thiol/disulfide couples within individuals were correlated, with the E(h) for CySS-mono-Gly/(Cys. CysGly) providing the best correlation with other low molecular weight pools as well as protein disulfides of GSH, CysGly and Cys. These results suggest that E(h) values for GSSG/2GSH and CySS-mono-Gly/(Cys. CysGly) may provide useful means to quantitatively express the oxidant/antioxidant balance in clinical and epidemiologic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cysteine / blood*
  • Disulfides / blood
  • Glutathione / blood*
  • Glutathione Disulfide / blood*
  • Humans
  • Models, Chemical
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / blood


  • Disulfides
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Glutathione
  • Cysteine
  • Glutathione Disulfide