Glutathione and apoptosis

Free Radic Res. 2008 Aug;42(8):689-706. doi: 10.1080/10715760802317663.


Apoptosis or programmed cell death represents a physiologically conserved mechanism of cell death that is pivotal in normal development and tissue homeostasis in all organisms. As a key modulator of cell functions, the most abundant non-protein thiol, glutathione (GSH), has important roles in cellular defense against oxidant aggression, redox regulation of proteins thiols and maintaining redox homeostasis that is critical for proper function of cellular processes, including apoptosis. Thus, a shift in the cellular GSH-to-GSSG redox balance in favour of the oxidized species, GSSG, constitutes an important signal that could decide the fate of a cell. The current review will focus on three main areas: (1) general description of cellular apoptotic pathways, (2) cellular compartmentation of GSH and the contribution of mitochondrial GSH and redox proteins to apoptotic signalling and (3) role of redox mechanisms in the initiation and execution phases of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Glutathione Disulfide / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Signal Transduction


  • Caspases
  • Glutathione
  • Glutathione Disulfide