Redox-based regulation of apoptosis: S-glutathionylation as a regulatory mechanism to control cell death

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2012 Mar 15;16(6):496-505. doi: 10.1089/ars.2011.4281. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Significance: Redox-based signaling governs a number of important pathways in tissue homeostasis. Consequently, deregulation of redox-controlled processes has been linked to a number of human diseases. Among the biological processes regulated by redox signaling, apoptosis or programmed cell death is a highly conserved process important for tissue homeostasis. Apoptosis can be triggered by a wide variety of stimuli, including death receptor ligands, environmental agents, and cytotoxic drugs. Apoptosis has also been implicated in the etiology of many human diseases.

Recent advances: Recent discoveries demonstrate that redox-based changes are required for efficient activation of apoptosis. Among these redox changes, alterations in the abundant thiol, glutathione (GSH), and the oxidative post-translational modification, protein S-glutathionylation (PSSG) have come to the forefront as critical regulators of apoptosis.

Critical issues: Although redox-based changes have been documented in apoptosis and disease pathogenesis, the mechanistic details, whereby redox perturbations intersect with pathogenic processes, remain obscure.

Future directions: Further research will be needed to understand the context in which of the members of the death receptor pathways undergo ligand dependent oxidative modifications. Additional investigation into the interplay between oxidative modifications, redox enzymes, and apoptosis pathway members are also critically needed to improve our understanding how redox-based control is achieved. Such analyses will be important in understanding the diverse chronic diseases. In this review we will discuss the emerging paradigms in our current understanding of redox-based regulation of apoptosis with an emphasis on S-glutathionylation of proteins and the enzymes involved in this important post-translational modification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Glutathione