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J Am Coll Nutr. 1986;5(2):137-51.

Intracellular cysteine and glutathione delivery systems.


Glutathione functions in catalysis, metabolism, transport, and reductive processes and in protection of cells by destruction of free radicals, reactive oxygen intermediates, and other toxic compounds of endogenous and exogenous origin. It also functions as a storage and transport form of cysteine. Depletion of glutathione (effectively accomplished by inhibition of its synthesis) increases sensitivity to radiation and to certain toxic compounds and is of value in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy in situations in which cell selectivity can be achieved. Increased cellular levels of glutathione protect cells against radiation and certain toxic compounds. Glutathione levels can be increased by administration of cysteine or of glutathione, but these approaches are not entirely satisfactory. Cellular glutathione levels can be increased by supplying substrate for gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase or for glutathione synthetase. L-2-Oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylate is well transported into many cells and is converted by 5-oxoprolinase to cysteine, a substrate of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. gamma-Glutamylcysteine and related compounds are effectively transported, especially into renal cells, thus providing substrate for glutathione synthetase; higher than normal levels of glutathione can be achieved because this enzyme is not significantly inhibited by glutathione, whereas gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase is feedback-inhibited. Derivatives of glutathione that are effectively transported into cells (glutathione itself is not) offer another means of increasing glutathione levels. The monoethyl ester of glutathione (in which the glycine carboxyl group is esterified) is well transported in vivo into liver and kidney and into cultured fibroblasts and lymphoid cells. Glutathione levels much higher than usual can be obtained by this procedure, which protects lymphoid cells against the lethal effects of irradiation and mice against acetaminophen, and which therefore may be a relatively safe way to increase cellular resistance to radiation and certain toxic compounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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