Cell glutathione scavenges free radicals, degrades peroxides, removes damaging electrophiles and maintains the redox state. The aim of this study was to develop an effective and efficient method to measure the rate of glutathione synthesis from its constituent amino acids in whole erythrocytes (RBCs). RBCs (10% haematocrit) were exposed to 0.3 mM 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) to lower their total glutathione content by 70% and then incubated with glucose, and N-acetylcysteine as a cysteine source. Over 3 h, glutathione levels increased at a constant rate of 1.2 μmol (L RBC)-1min-1, almost 5 times faster than the rate of glutathione synthesis in RBCs with normal glutathione levels. Glutathione at concentrations normally found in RBCs is known to inhibit glutamate cysteine ligase (the major rate controlling enzyme for glutathione synthesis). The rate of glutathione recovery was substantially reduced in RBCs treated with buthionine sulfoximine, a specific inhibitor of glutamate cysteine ligase. Our results indicate that the measurement of glutathione recovery rate after CDNB treatment can be used to estimate de novo synthesis of glutathione. Application of this direct method for measuring glutathione synthesis will increase understanding of the interactions of effectors that determine glutathione levels in RBCs under various physiological and pathological conditions.