Hepatic glutathione and glutathione S-conjugate transport mechanisms

Yale J Biol Med. Jul-Aug 1997;70(4):287-300.


Glutathione (GSH) plays a critical role in many cellular processes, including the metabolism and detoxification of oxidants, metals, and other reactive electrophilic compounds of both endogenous and exogenous origin. Because the liver is a major site of GSH and glutathione S-conjugate biosynthesis and export, significant effort has been devoted to characterizing liver cell sinusoidal and canalicular membrane transporters for these compounds. Glutathione S-conjugates synthesized in the liver are secreted preferentially into bile, and recent studies in isolated canalicular membrane vesicles indicate that there are multiple transport mechanisms for these conjugates, including those that are energized by ATP hydrolysis and those that may be driven by the electrochemical gradient. Glutathione S-conjugates that are relatively hydrophobic or have a bulky S-substituent are good substrates for the canalicular ATP-dependent transporter mrp2 (multidrug resistance-associated protein 2, also called cMOAT, the canalicular multispecific organic anion transporter, or cMrp, the canalicular isoform of mrp). In contrast with the glutathione S-conjugates, hepatic GSH is released into both blood and bile. GSH transport across both of these membrane domains is of low affinity and is energized by the electrochemical potential. Recent reports describe two candidate GSH transport proteins for the canalicular and sinusoidal membranes (RcGshT and RsGshT, respectively); however, some concerns have been raised regarding these studies. Additional work is needed to characterize GSH transporters at the functional and molecular level.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anion Transport Proteins
  • Bile / metabolism
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism*


  • Anion Transport Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glutathione