Regulative potential of glutamine--relation to glutathione metabolism

Nutrition. 2002 Mar;18(3):217-21. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(01)00797-3.


Glutamine (GLN) is the most abundant free amino acid (AA) in the human body. Under GLN-free conditions, which can be obtained when cells are cultivated in vitro, tissue cells cannot grow. Therefore, when classifying GLN as a "non-essential" AA, one must consider that in the human body GLN is synthesized from essential AAs and is continuously delivered from skeletal muscle to other organs. It is fascinating that a relatively simple AA like GLN can stimulate a large variety of cellular reactions. GLN stimulates not only the growth of cells but also the expression of surface antigens, the formation of cytokines, and the synthesis of heat shock proteins. Further, a GLN deficiency leads to a cell cycle arrest in G(0) to G(1) and reduces apoptosis. Interestingly, many of these biological activities also are associated with the cellular reduced oxygen potential, which depends mainly on the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione. Experimental animal studies have shown that the administration of GLN increases tissue concentrations of reduced glutathione. This review describes the relation of GLN to reduced glutathione metabolism and discusses the alteration of reduced glutathione metabolism under a variety of clinical conditions such as reperfusion injury, myocardial infarction, respiratory insufficiency, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and clinical protein catabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Glutamine / biosynthesis
  • Glutamine / physiology*
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Monocytes / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Glutathione