Therapeutic approaches to modulating glutathione levels as a pharmacological strategy in Alzheimer’s disease

Nady Braidy*, Martin Zarka, Jeffrey Welch, Wallace Bridge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Accumulating evidence has suggested the involvement of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The main endogenous antioxidant, glutathione (GSH), has been shown to decline with ageing and in several age-related degenerative diseases, including AD. Potential options for replenishing GSH levels as a therapeutic target to treat these conditions include the administration of GSH itself, and low toxicity forms of the limiting amino acid for GSH synthesis; cysteine. However, passive GSH uptake is limited due to an unfavourable concentration gradient between the plasma and cytosol. Similarly, cysteine prodrugs have demonstrated limited efficacy to elevate depleted GSH levels in several in vivo and in vitro models of disease. It has been suggested that the decline in GSH levels in AD, may be associated with down regulation of GSH homeostasis rather than substrate limitation. Cellular GSH homeostasis is regulated by non-allosteric feedback inhibition exerted by GSH on glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL), which is responsible for the synthesis of the GSH precursor γ-glutamylcysteine (GGC). In conditions involving down regulated GSH homeostasis, GGC serves as a crucialrate-limiting substrate for GSH synthetase, the main enzyme responsible for condensing glycine with GGC to form the final thiol tripeptide, GSH. In this review, we focus on the therapeutic potential of GGC to elevate cellular GSH levels. We also discuss the efficacy of GGC prodrugs which would be taken up and converted by the unregulated GS to GSH, and the administration of modified GSH compounds, such as GSH esters that could potentially overcome the concentration gradient that prohibits passive GSH uptake, in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-313
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Alzheimer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Antioxidants
  • Dementia
  • Glutathione
  • Oxidative stress


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