Superfusates from rat brain slices were screened for thiol compounds after derivatization with monobromobimane by reversed-phase HPLC. Only glutathione and cysteine were detected. The Ca(2+)-dependent release of these compounds from slices of different regions of rat brain was investigated, applying a highly sensitive and reproducible quantification method, based on reduction of superfusates with dithiothreitol, reaction of thiols with iodoacetic acid, precolumn derivatization with o-phthalaldehyde reagent solution, and analysis with reversed-phase HPLC. This methodology allowed determination of reduced and total thiols in aliquots of the same superfusates. Mostly reduced glutathione and cysteine were released upon K+ depolarization and the Ca2+ dependency suggests that they originate from a neuronal compartment. The GSH release was most prominent in the mesodiencephalon, cortex, hippocampus, and striatum and lowest in the pons-medulla and cerebellum. This underscores a physiologically significant role for glutathione in CNS neurotransmission.