Glutathione depletion is necessary for apoptosis in lymphoid cells independent of reactive oxygen species formation

Rodrigo Franco, Mihalis I. Panayiotidis, John A. Cidlowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

191 Scopus citations


Changes in the intracellular redox environment of cells have been reported to be critical for the activation of apoptotic enzymes and the progression of programmed cell death. Glutathione (GSH) depletion is an early hallmark observed in apoptosis, and we have demonstrated that GSH efflux during death receptor-mediated apoptosis occurs via a GSH transporter. We now evaluate the relationship between GSH depletion, the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and the progression of apoptosis. Simultaneous single cell analysis of changes in GSH content and ROS formation by multiparametric FACS revealed that loss of intracellular GSH was paralleled by the generation of different ROS including hydrogen peroxide, superoxide anion, hydroxyl radical, and lipid peroxides. However, inhibition of ROS formation by a variety of antioxidants showed that GSH loss was independent from the generation of ROS. Furthermore, GSH depletion was observed to be necessary for ROS generation. Interestingly, high extracellular thiol concentration (GSH and N-acetyl-cysteine) inhibited apoptosis, whereas, inhibition of ROS generation by other non-thiol antioxidants was ineffective in preventing cell death. Finally, GSH depletion was shown to be a necessary for the progression of apoptosis activated by both extrinsic and intrinsic signaling pathways. These results document a necessary and critical role for GSH loss in apoptosis and clearly uncouple for the first time GSH depletion from ROS formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30452-30465
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 19 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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