The mammalian brain has high energy demands, which may become higher in response to environmental challenges such as psychogenic stress exposure. Therefore, efficient neutralization of reactive oxygen species that are produced as a by-product of ATP synthesis is crucial for preventing oxidative damage and ensuring normal energy supply and brain function. Glutathione (GSH) is arguably the most important endogenous antioxidant in the brain. In recent years, aberrant GSH levels have been implicated in different psychiatric disorders, including stress-related psychopathologies. In this review, we examine the available data supporting a role for GSH levels and antioxidant function in the brain in relation to anxiety and stress-related psychopathologies. Additionally, we identify several promising compounds that could raise GSH levels in the brain by either increasing the availability of its precursors or the expression of GSH-regulating enzymes through activation of Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Given the high tolerability and safety profile of these compounds, they may represent attractive new opportunities to complement existing therapeutic manipulations against stress-related psychopathologies.
Keywords: Anxiety; Brain; Curcumin; Depression; Dimethyl fumarate; Ergothioneine; Glutamine; Glutathione (GSH); Glycine; Melatonin; N-acetyl-cysteine; Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2); Oxidative stress; Psychogenic stress; Puerarin; Sulforaphane; Taurine; Trehalose; Whey proteins; l-carnitine.
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