Using the selective membrane-solubilizing properties of digitonin and a rapid centrifugation method to separate cytoplasmic and mitochondrial components, the metabolic state of mitochondrial glutathione was investigated in isolated rat hepatocytes. Two pools of GSH were released from hepatocytes incubated with increasing concentrations of digitonin. The largest pool (about 85% of cellular total) was released simultaneously with lactate dehydrogenase, the other pool with citrate synthase, indicating cytoplasmic and mitochondrial locations, respectively. The t1/2 of the mitochondrial pool was estimated by linear regression analysis to be 30 +/- 3 h, while the cytoplasmic pool turned over with a t1/2 of about 2 +/- 0.1 h. The rate of incorporation of [35S]methionine or cysteine into the cytoplasmic pool of GSH, when corrected for turnover, was 15 times greater than into the mitochondrial pool. Mitochondrial GSH was not depleted after 60 min with 185 microM diethyl maleate with or without 75 microM bis-1,3-(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea, a specific inhibitor of glutathione reductase, whereas cytoplasmic levels were reduced to 40% and 10% of control values, respectively. In vivo experiments, using L-(alpha S,5S)-alpha-amino-3-chloro-4,5-dihydro-5-isoxazoleacetic acid to inactive gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase to limit cysteine formation from plasma GSH, demonstrated that in the absence of label reincorporation, liver glutathione exhibits a biphasic turnover. The rates of decay (half-lives) and percentages of total GSH under these conditions correlate well with the half-lives and pool distribution seen in the mitochondrial and cytoplasmic populations of GSH found in the isolated hepatocytes.
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