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J Neurochem. 1994 Jan;62(1):45-53.

Vitamin E, ascorbate, glutathione, glutathione disulfide, and enzymes of glutathione metabolism in cultures of chick astrocytes and neurons: evidence that astrocytes play an important role in antioxidative processes in the brain.

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Department of Biochemistry, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY 10021.


GSH, GSSG, vitamin E, and ascorbate were measured in 14-day cultures of chick astrocytes and neurons and compared with levels in the forebrains of chick embryos of comparable age. Activities of enzymes involved in GSH metabolism were also measured. These included gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase, GSH synthetase, gamma-glutamyl cyclotransferase, gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase, glutathione transferase (GST), GSH peroxidase, and GSSG reductase. The concentration of lipid-soluble vitamin E in the cultured neurons was found to be comparable with that in the forebrain. On the other hand, the concentration of vitamin E in the astrocytes was significantly greater in the cultured astrocytes than in the neurons, suggesting that the astrocytes are able to accumulate exogenous vitamin E more extensively than neurons. The concentrations of major fatty acids were higher in the cell membranes of cultured neurons than those in the astrocytes. Ascorbate was not detected in cultured cells although the chick forebrains contained appreciable levels of this antioxidant. GSH, total glutathione (i.e., GSH and GSSG), and GST activity were much higher in cultured astrocytes than in neurons. gamma-Glutamylcysteine synthetase activity was higher in the cultured astrocytes than in the cultured neurons. GSH reductase and GSH peroxidase activities were roughly comparable in cultured astrocytes and neurons. The high levels of GSH and GST in cultured astrocytes appears to reflect the situation in vivo. The data suggest that astrocytes are resistant to reactive oxygen species (and potentially toxic xenobiotics) and may play a protective role in the brain.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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