Objective: Previously, we demonstrated that lifelong methionine (Met) restriction (MR) increases lifespan, decreases the incidence of aging-related diseases, increases blood glutathione (GSH) levels, and prevents loss of GSH during aging in rats. Our present objective was to elucidate the effects of MR on GSH metabolism and transport by determining the time course and nature of GSH and cysteine changes in blood and other tissues in young and mature rats.
Methods: Male F-344 rats were placed on control (0.86% Met) or MR (0.17% Met) defined amino acid diets at age 7 wk and killed at different times thereafter. MR was also initiated in adult (12-mo-old) rats.
Results: Throughout the first 2 mo of MR, blood GSH levels increased 84% and liver GSH decreased 66% in relation to controls. After this period, liver GSH levels remained constant through at least 6 mo. GSH levels also decreased in the pancreas (80%) and kidney (22%) but remained unchanged in other tissues examined after 11 wk of MR. The increase in blood GSH was evident as soon as 1 wk after initiating MR and reached a plateau by 6 wk. A similar increase in erythrocyte GSH levels was observed when MR was administered to mature adult rats. Fasting decreased liver GSH in controls but had no further effect in MR animals. By 1 mo, cysteine levels had decreased in all tissues except brain.
Conclusion: These results suggest that adaptive changes occur in the metabolism of Met, cysteine, and/or GSH as a result of MR in young and adult rats. These early metabolic changes lead to conservation of GSH levels in most extrahepatic tissues and increased GSH in erythrocytes by depleting liver GSH to a critical level.