Regulation of cellular glutathione

Am J Physiol. 1989 Oct;257(4 Pt 1):L163-73. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.1989.257.4.L163.


In addition to its participation in a variety of other biochemical reactions, glutathione (GSH) is a major antioxidant. It is regularly generated intracellularly from its oxidized form by glutathione reductase activity that is coupled with a series of interrelated reactions. Synthesis of GSH also takes place intracellularly by a two-step reaction, the first of which is catalyzed by rate-limiting gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase activity. Intracellular substrates for GSH are provided both by direct amino acid transport and by a gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase reaction that salvages circulating GSH by coupling the gamma-glutamyl moiety to a suitable amino acid acceptor for transport into the cell. Although the liver is a net synthesizer of circulating GSH, organs such as the kidney salvage GSH through the gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase reaction. Intracellular GSH may be consumed by GSH transferase reactions that conjugate GSH with certain xenobiotics. Elevation of cellular GSH levels in cultured cells in response to hyperoxia or electrophilic agents such as diethylmaleate is coupled with an increase in activity of the Xc- transport system for the amino acids cystine and glutamate. Strategies may be developed for protection against oxidant injury by enhancement of transport systems for precursor amino acids of GSH or by providing substrate that circumvents feedback inhibition of GSH synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / metabolism


  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione