The two enzymes required for de novo glutathione synthesis, glutamyl cysteine synthetase and glutathione synthetase, have been demonstrated in hemolysates of human erythrocytes. Glutamyl cysteine synthetase requires glutamic acid, cysteine, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and magnesium ions to form γ-glutamyl cysteine. The activity of this enzyme in hemolysates from 25 normal subjects was 0.43±0.04 μmole glutamyl cysteine formed per g hemoglobin per min. Glutathione synthetase requires γ-glutamyl cysteine, glycine, ATP, and magnesium ions to form glutathione. The activity of this enzyme in hemolysates from 25 normal subjects was 0.19±0.03 μmole glutathione formed per g hemoglobin per min. Glutathione synthetase also catalyzes an exchange reaction between glycine and glutathione, but this reaction is not significant under the conditions used for assay of hemolysates. The capacity for erythrocytes to synthesize glutathione exceeds the rate of glutathione turnover by 150-fold, indicating that there is considerable reserve capacity for glutathione synthesis. A patient with erythrocyte glutathione synthetase deficiency has been described. The inability of patients' extracts to synthesize glutathione is corrected by the addition of pure glutathione synthetase, indicating that there is no inhibitor in the patients' erythrocytes.
Virginia Minnich, M. B. Smith, M. J. Brauner, Philip W. Majerus