Investigating the causes for decreased levels of glutathione in individuals with type II diabetes

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 19;10(3):e0118436. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118436. eCollection 2015.


Tuberculosis (TB) remains an eminent global burden with one third of the world's population latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb). Individuals with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to M. tb infection. In fact, individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) are two to three times more susceptible to TB than those without T2DM. In this study, we report that individuals with T2DM have lower levels of glutathione (GSH) due to compromised levels of GSH synthesis and metabolism enzymes. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), a cytokine that is known to decrease the expression of the catalytic subunit of glutamine-cysteine ligase (GCLC) was found in increased levels in the plasma samples from individuals with T2DM, explaining the possible underlying mechanism that is responsible for decreased levels of GSH in individuals with T2DM. Moreover, increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-17 (IL-17) were observed in plasma samples isolated from individuals with T2DM. Increased levels of IL-6 and IL-17 was accompanied by enhanced production of free radicals further indicating an alternative mechanism for the decreased levels of GSH in individuals with T2DM. Augmenting the levels of GSH in macrophages isolated from individuals with T2DM resulted in improved control of M. tb infection. Furthermore, cytokines that are responsible for controlling M. tb infection at the cellular and granuloma level such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-2 (IL-2), interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), and interleukin-12 (IL-12), were found to be compromised in plasma samples isolated from individuals with T2DM. On the other hand, interleukin-10 (IL-10), an immunosuppressive cytokine was increased in plasma samples isolated from individuals with T2DM. Overall, these findings suggest that lower levels of GSH in individuals with T2DM lead to their increased susceptibility to M. tb infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Diabetes Complications / immunology
  • Diabetes Complications / microbiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Disease Susceptibility / immunology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glutathione / blood
  • Glutathione / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Interleukin-17 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / blood
  • Rosaniline Dyes
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / blood*
  • Tuberculosis / etiology
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-6
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Rosaniline Dyes
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Coomassie blue
  • Glutathione

Grants and funding

This work was supported in part by Western University of Health Sciences and Your Energy Systems to VV. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.