The biosynthesis of reduced glutathione (GSH) is carried out by the enzymes gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (GCL) and GSH synthetase. GCL is the rate-limiting step and represents a heterodimeric enzyme comprised of a catalytic subunit (GCLC) and a ("regulatory"), or modifier, subunit (GCLM). The nonhomologous Gclc and Gclm genes are located on mouse chromosomes 9 and 3, respectively. GCLC owns the catalytic activity, whereas GCLM enhances the enzyme activity by lowering the K(m) for glutamate and increasing the K(i) to GSH inhibition. Humans have been identified with one or two defective GCLC alleles and show low GSH levels. As an initial first step toward understanding the role of GSH in cellular redox homeostasis, we have targeted a disruption of the mouse Gclc gene. The Gclc(-/-) homozygous knockout animal dies before gestational day 13, whereas the Gclc(+/-) heterozygote is viable and fertile. The Gclc(+/-) mouse exhibits a gene-dose decrease in the GCLC protein and GCL activity, but only about a 20% diminution in GSH levels and a compensatory increase of approximately 30% in ascorbate-as compared with that in Gclc(+/+) wild-type littermates. These data show a reciprocal action between falling GSH concentrations and rising ascorbate levels. Therefore, the Gclc(+/-) mouse may be a useful genetic model for mild endogenous oxidative stress.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.