Reduced glutathione is highly expressed in white matter and neurons in the unperturbed mouse brain--implications for oxidative stress associated with neurodegeneration

Brain Res. 2009 Jun 18;1276:22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.04.029. Epub 2009 Apr 22.


Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. The depletion of glutathione (GSH) a powerful antioxidant renders cells particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. Isolated neuronal and glial cell culture studies suggest that glia rather than neurons have greatest reserves of GSH, implying that neurons are most sensitive to oxidative stress. However, pathological in vivo studies suggest that GSH associated enzymes are elevated in neurons rather than astrocytes. The active, reduced form of GSH is rapidly degraded thus making it difficult to identify the location of GSH in post-mortem tissue. Therefore, to determine whether GSH is more highly expressed in neurons or astrocytes we perfused mouse brains with a solution containing NEM which reacts with the sulfhydryl group of GSH, thus locking the active form in situ, prior to immunostaining with an anti-GS-NEM antibody. We obtained brightfield and fluorescent digital images of sections stained with DAPI and antibodies directed against GS-NEM, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in regions containing the hippocampus, striatum, frontal cortex, midbrain nuclei, cerebellum and reticular formation neurons. GSH was most abundant in neurons and white matter in all brain regions, and only in occasional astrocytes lining the third and fourth ventricles. High levels of GSH in neurons and white matter, suggests astrocytes rather than neurons may be particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Cerebral Ventricles / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Photomicrography
  • Reticular Formation / metabolism


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Glutathione