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Research Article

Evidence for carrier-mediated transport of glutathione across the blood-brain barrier in the rat.

R Kannan, J F Kuhlenkamp, E Jeandidier, H Trinh, M Ookhtens and N Kaplowitz

Liver Research Laboratory, Wadsworth Veterans Administration Hospital Center, Los Angeles 90073.

Published June 1990

Information on the origin of brain glutathione and the possibility of its transport from blood to brain is limited. We found a substantial uptake of 35S-labeled glutathione by the rat brain using the carotid artery injection technique. The brain uptake index of glutathione with and without an irreversible gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase inhibitor, acivicin, was similar. No significant differences in the regional uptake of labeled glutathione were found in rats pretreated with acivicin. The brain uptake index of tracer glutathione was similar to that of cysteine tracer and was lower than that of phenylalanine. The transport of oxidized glutathione (glutathione disfulfide) across the blood-brain barrier was not significantly different from that of sucrose, an impermeable marker. Brain radioactivity 15 s after carotid artery injection of labeled glutathione to rats pretreated with acivicin was predominantly in the form of glutathione. The in vivo glutathione uptake was saturable with an apparent Km of 5.84 mM. Amino acids, amino acid analogues, and other compounds [cysteine, phenylalanine, glutathione disulfide, gamma-glutamylglutamate, gamma-glutamyl p-nitroanilide, 2-aminobicyclo(2,2,1)heptane-2-carboxylic acid (BCH)] did not affect glutathione transport. Our data suggest that glutathione is transported across the blood-brain barrier by a saturable and specific mechanism.

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