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J Neurosci. 1999 Jan 15;19(2):562-9.

Synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione in neurons: supply by astrocytes of CysGly as precursor for neuronal glutathione.

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  • 1Physiologisch-chemisches Institut der Universität, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Deficiency of the antioxidant glutathione in brain appears to be connected with several diseases characterized by neuronal loss. To study neuronal glutathione metabolism and metabolic interactions between neurons and astrocytes in this respect, neuron-rich primary cultures and transient cocultures of neurons and astroglial cells were used. Coincubation of neurons with astroglial cells resulted within 24 hr of incubation in a neuronal glutathione content twice that of neurons incubated in the absence of astroglial cells. In cultured neurons, the availability of cysteine limited the cellular level of glutathione. During a 4 hr incubation in a minimal medium lacking all amino acids except cysteine, the amount of neuronal glutathione was doubled. Besides cysteine, also the dipeptides CysGly and gammaGluCys were able to serve as glutathione precursors and caused a concentration-dependent increase in glutathione content. Concentrations giving half-maximal effects were 5, 5, and 200 microM for cysteine, CysGly, and gammaGluCys, respectively. In the transient cocultures, the astroglia-mediated increase in neuronal glutathione was suppressed by acivicin, an inhibitor of the astroglial ectoenzyme gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, which generates CysGly from glutathione. These data suggest the following metabolic interaction in glutathione metabolism of brain cells: the ectoenzyme gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase uses as substrate the glutathione released by astrocytes to generate the dipeptide CysGly that is subsequently used by neurons as precursor for glutathione synthesis.

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