Regulation of redox glutathione levels and gene transcription in lung inflammation: therapeutic approaches

Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 May 1;28(9):1405-20. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(00)00215-x.


Glutathione (L-gamma-glutamyl-L-cysteinylglycine, GSH), is a vital intra- and extracellular protective antioxidant. Glutathione is synthesized from its constituent amino acids by the sequential action of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gamma-GCS) and GSH synthetase. The rate-limiting enzyme in GSH synthesis is gamma-GCS. Gamma-GCS expression is modulated by oxidants, phenolic antioxidants, and inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents in various mammalian cells. The intracellular GSH redox homeostasis is strictly regulated to govern cell metabolism and protect cells against oxidative stress. Growing evidence has suggested that cellular oxidative processes have a fundamental role in inflammation through the activation of stress kinases (JNK, MAPK, p38) and redox-sensitive transcription factors such as NF-kappaB and AP-1, which differentially regulate the genes for proinflammatory mediators and protective antioxidant genes such as gamma-GCS, Mn-SOD, and heme oxygenase-1. The critical balance between the induction of proinflammatory mediators and antioxidant genes and the regulation of the levels of GSH in response to oxidative stress at the site of inflammation is not known. Knowledge of the mechanisms of redox GSH regulation and gene transcription in inflammation could lead to the development of novel therapies based on the pharmacological manipulation of the production of this important antioxidant in inflammation and injury. This FORUM article features the role of GSH levels in the regulation of transcription factors, whose activation and DNA binding leads to proinflammatory and antioxidant gene transcription. The potential role of thiol antioxidants as a therapeutic approach in inflammatory lung diseases is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutathione / genetics
  • Glutathione / physiology*
  • Glutathione / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Proteins / physiology
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology
  • Lung / pathology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • NF-kappa B / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • I-kappa B Proteins
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • NF-kappa B
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione