Neurodegenerative disorders in humans: the role of glutathione in oxidative stress-mediated neuronal death

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1997 Dec;25(3):335-58. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0173(97)00045-3.


Oxidative stress has been implicated in both normal aging and in various neurodegenerative disorders and may be a common mechanism underlying various forms of cell death including necrosis, apoptosis, and excitotoxicity. In this review, we develop the hypothesis that oxidative stress-mediated neuronal loss may be initiated by a decline in the antioxidant molecule glutathione (GSH). GSH plays multiple roles in the nervous system including free radical scavenger, redox modulator of ionotropic receptor activity, and possible neurotransmitter. GSH depletion can enhance oxidative stress and may also increase the levels of excitotoxic molecules; both types of action can initiate cell death in distinct neuronal populations. Evidence for a role of oxidative stress and diminished GSH status is presented for Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Potential links to the Guamanian variant of these diseases (ALS-PD complex) are discussed. In context to the above, we provide a GSH-depletion model of neurodegenerative disorders, suggest experimental verifications of this model, and propose potential therapeutic approaches for preventing or halting these diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*


  • Glutathione