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J Bioenerg Biomembr. 2004 Aug;36(4):329-33.

Mitochondrial glutathione: a modulator of brain cell death.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biochemistry and Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.


The small fraction of glutathione in mitochondria in nonneural tissues is an important contributor to cell survival under some conditions. However, there has been only limited characterization of the properties and function of mitochondrial glutathione in cells from the brain. In astrocytes in culture, highly selective depletion of this glutathione pool does not affect cell viability, at least in the first 24 h, but does greatly increase susceptibility to exposure to nitric oxide or peroxynitrite. In vivo, a selective partial loss of glutathione develops during focal cerebral ischemia and persists during reperfusion. The timing and distribution of glutathione loss shows an apparent association with the likelihood that tissue infarction will subsequently develop. Furthermore, infarct volume is greatly decreased by intracerebroventricular infusion of glutathione monoethylester, a compound that can increase mitochondrial glutathione. Together these recent findings indicate that alterations in mitochondrial glutathione are likely to contribute to the severity of tissue damage in stroke and possibly other neurological disorders. Thus, this antioxidant pool provides a potentially useful target for therapeutic intervention.

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