The fate of extracellular glutathione in the rat

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1978 Mar 20;539(3):324-37. doi: 10.1016/0304-4165(78)90037-5.


When intravenously administered to rats, [U-14C]glycine-labelled GSSG, GSH and its analogue ophthalmic acid were rapidly removed from the blood. In perfusion studies with isolated liver, however, the compounds did not enter the liver tissue. Thus, uptake by this tissue is obviously not responsible for the removal of gamma-glutamyl tripeptides from the blood. Instead, rapid hydrolysis of the tripeptides was observed. The undegraded tripeptides were only detected in the blood immediately after administration. Within tissue the degradation product glycine accounted for all the radioactivity. After intravenous injection of the labelled tripeptides the radioactivity accumulated first in the kidney, as shown by autoradiographic studies and chemical analysis of different tissues. The hydrolysis of the gamma-glutamyl tripeptides decreased markedly after the renal arteries were clamped. These observations strongly suggest that renal tissue is the principal site of the degradation of the tripeptides. Inhibition studies and experiments with isolated renal tubules revealed that gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase catalyses the fast hydrolysis of the extracellular peptides. The results indicate that, when entering the extracellular space, glutathione and its analogues are completely hydrolysed and must be resynthesized after reuptake of the constituent amino acids. It is concluded that the degradation occurs mainly on the luminal surface of the renal brush-border membrane and that gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase is a glutathionase acting on extracellular glutathione.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Glutamates / metabolism
  • Glutathione / analogs & derivatives
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Rats
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / metabolism


  • Glutamates
  • Oligopeptides
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Glutathione