Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with loss of total glutathione (GSH) which may contribute to progressive cell death. Peripheral GSH administration has been used clinically with reported benefits. Despite this, there is little specific information to characterize its cellular uptake or clearance, brain elevation with peripheral delivery or neuroprotective efficacy in PD models. The current study was carried out to provide this information using in vitro and in vivo approaches. In rat mesencephalic culture, the monoethyl ester of GSH (GEE), but not GSH (1-10 mM, 24 h) produced a dose-dependent elevation in GSH. The half-life for clearance was 10.14 h and was not different in cells depleted of GSH prior to loading. Elevation of GSH with GEE protected neurons from oxidative stress with H2O2 or metabolic stress with the complex I and II inhibitors MPP+ and malonate, respectively. To determine if peripheral administration of GEE could elevate brain GSH levels, rats were administered 0.1-50 mg/kg/day GEE via osmotic minipump either subcutaneously (sc) or via a cannula placed into the left cerebral ventricle (icv) for 28 days. Only central delivery of GEE resulted in significant elevations of brain GSH. Elevation of brain GSH by icv infusion of GEE was examined for its neuroprotective effects against chronic central delivery of MPP+. Infusion of 0.142 mg/kg/day MPP+ for 28 days caused a selective ipsilateral loss of striatal dopamine. Co-infusion of MPP+ with 10 mg/kg/day GEE significantly protected against striatal dopamine loss. These findings show that the ethyl ester of GSH but not GSH per se can elevate intracellular GSH, that brain elevation of GSH requires central delivery of the ethyl ester and that this elevation provides neuroprotection against oxidative stress or chronic mitochondrial impairment.