Glutathione is abundant in the lining fluid that bathes the gas exchange surface of the lung. On the one hand glutathione in this extracellular pool functions in antioxidant defense to protect cells and proteins in the alveolar space from oxidant injury; on the other hand, it functions as a source of cysteine to maintain cellular glutathione and protein synthesis. These seemingly opposing functions are regulated through metabolism by gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT, EC 188.8.131.52). Even under normal physiologic conditions, lung lining fluid (LLF) contains a concentrated pool of GGT activity exceeding that of whole lung by about 7-fold and indicating increased turnover of glutathione at the epithelial surface of the lung. With oxidant stress LLF GGT activity is amplified even further as glutathione turnover is accelerated to meet the increased demands of cells for cysteine. Mouse models of GGT deficiency confirmed this biological role of LLF GGT activity and revealed the robust expansiveness and antioxidant capacity of the LLF glutathione pool in the absence of metabolism. Acivicin, an irreversible inhibitor of GGT, can be utilized to augment LLF fluid glutathione content in normal mice and novel GGT inhibitors have now been defined that provide advantages over acivicin. Inhibiting LLF GGT activity is a novel strategy to selectively augment the extracellular LLF glutathione pool. The enhanced antioxidant capacity can maintain lung epithelial cell integrity and barrier function under oxidant stress.
Keywords: Lung lining fluid, glutathione, metabolism, antioxidant, γ-glutamyl transferase, cystic fibrosis, Secretory leukoprotease inhibitor, Bronchoalveolar lavage, Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, central nervous system