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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Specific glutathione binding sites in pig cerebral cortical synaptic membranes.

Glutathione (gamma-glutamylcysteinylglycine) is a neuromodulator at glutamate receptors, but may also act as a neurotransmitter at sites of its own. The Na+-independent binding of [3H]glutathione to pig cortical synaptic membranes was characterized here using glycine, cysteine analogs, dipeptides and glutathione derivatives, and ligands selective for known glutamate receptors. L-Glutamate, pyroglutamate, quinolinate, (S)-5-fluorowillardiine and 6-nitro-7-sulfamoylbenzo[f]quinoxaline-2,3-dione were weak inhibitors at concentrations of 0.5 or 1 mM. D-Glutamate, L- and D-aspartate, glutamine, quisqualate, kynurenate, other N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor ligands and non-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor ligands failed to displace [3H]glutathione. Except for weak inhibition by D-serine (0.5 mM), glycine and other ligands of the glycine co-activatory site in the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors had no displacing effect. Similarly, metabotropic glutamate group I, II and III receptor agonists and antagonists and compounds acting at the glutamate uptake sites were generally inactive. Glutathione, oxidized glutathione, S-nitrosoglutathione, gamma-L-glutamylcysteine, cysteinylglycine, cysteine, cysteamine and cystamine were the most potent displacers (IC50 values in the micromolar range), followed by dithiothreitol, glutathione sulfonate and the S-alkyl derivatives of glutathione (S-methyl-, -ethyl-, -propyl-, -butyl- and -pentylglutathione). L-Homocysteinate and aminomethanesulfonate exhibited a moderate efficacy. Thiokynurenate, a cysteine analog and an antagonist at the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor glycine co-activatory site, was a potent activator of glutathione binding. At 1 mM, some dipeptides also slightly activated the binding, gamma-L-glutamylleucine and gamma-L-glutamyl-GABA being the most effective. The specific binding sites for glutathione in brain synaptic membranes are not identical to any known excitatory amino acid receptor. The cysteinyl moiety is crucial in the binding of glutathione. The oxidation or alkylation of the cysteine thiol group reduces the binding affinity. The strong activation by thiokynurenate may indicate that the glutathione receptor protein contains a modulatory site to which co-agonists may bind and allosterically activate glutathione binding. The novel population of specific binding sites of glutathione gives rise to the possibility that they may have profound effects on synaptic functions in the mammalian central nervous system. The glutathione binding sites may be an important, and for the most part unrecognized, component in signal transduction in the brain.[1]


  1. Specific glutathione binding sites in pig cerebral cortical synaptic membranes. Janáky, R., Shaw, C.A., Varga, V., Hermann, A., Dohovics, R., Saransaari, P., Oja, S.S. Neuroscience (2000) [Pubmed]
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