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Arch Physiol Biochem. 2007 Oct-Dec;113(4-5):234-58.

The central role of glutathione in the pathophysiology of human diseases.

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Laboratory of Signal Transduction, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, 111 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Reduced glutathione (L-gamma-glutamyl-L-cysteinyl-glycine, GSH) is the prevalent low-molecular-weight thiol in mammalian cells. It is formed in a two-step enzymatic process including, first, the formation of gamma-glutamylcysteine from glutamate and cysteine, by the activity of the gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase; and second, the formation of GSH by the activity of GSH synthetase which uses gamma-glutamylcysteine and glycine as substrates. While its synthesis and metabolism occur intracellularly, its catabolism occurs extracellularly by a series of enzymatic and plasma membrane transport steps. Glutathione metabolism and transport participates in many cellular reactions including: antioxidant defense of the cell, drug detoxification and cell signaling (involved in the regulation of gene expression, apoptosis and cell proliferation). Alterations in its concentration have also been demonstrated to be a common feature of many pathological conditions including diabetes, cancer, AIDS, neurodegenerative and liver diseases. Additionally, GSH catabolism has been recently reported to modulate redox-sensitive components of signal transduction cascades. In this manuscript, we review the current state of knowledge on the role of GSH in the pathogenesis of human diseases with the aim to underscore its relevance in translational research for future therapeutic treatment design.

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