Prostaglandins containing an alpha,beta-unsaturated keto group, such as prostaglandin A2 (PGA2) and prostaglandin J2 (PGJ2), inhibit cell proliferation. These cyclopentenone prostaglandins may be conjugated with GSH chemically or enzymatically via glutathione S-transferases, and this has been suggested to result in inhibition of the antiproliferative mode of action. In the present study, the role of the major human GSTs in the conjugation of PGA2 and PGJ2 with GSH was investigated with purified enzymes, i.e., the Alpha-class enzymes GST A1-1 and GST A2-2, the Mu-class enzyme GST M1a-1a, and the Pi-class enzyme GST P1-1. The GSH conjugates were separated from the parent compound by HPLC and identified by fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry and 1H-NMR. Two GSH conjugates were found for both PGA2 and PGJ2, the R- and S-GSH conjugates of both prostaglandins. Incubation experiments with PGA2 and PGJ2 (70-600 microM) clearly showed the role of individual GSTs in the conjugation of PGA2 and PGJ2. Compared to the chemical reaction, enzyme activities towards PGA2 were up to 5.4 times as high (GSTA1-1) at the lowest concentration (70 microM), while at the highest concentration (600 microM) enzyme activities were up to 3.0 times as high (GST P1-1). For PGJ2, enzyme activities were up to 4.3 (GSTM1a-1a, 70 microM) and up to 3.1 (GSTM1a-1a, 600 microM) times as high. As expected, similar amounts of the R- and S-conjugates of both prostaglandins were found in the chemical reaction. Striking stereoselectivities in conjugating activities were observed for GST A1-1 and GST P1-1. GST A1-1 favors the formation of the R-GSH conjugates of both prostaglandins. GST P1-1 showed a clear selectivity with regard to the formation of the S-GSH conjugate of PGA2. However, this selectivity was not found for the formation of the S-GSH conjugate of PGJ2. GSTM1a-1a showed no stereoselectivity with regard to the GSH conjugation of both PGA2 and PGJ2. GSTA2-2 only showed some minor formation of the R-GSH conjugate of PGJ2. The possible implications of the observed stereoselectivity on the effects of PGA2 and PGJ2 are discussed.