Scientists develop imaging method for measuring glutathione in real time

July 13, 2017, Baylor College of Medicine

Glutathione is the most abundant natural antioxidant in cells. It protects them from damage and regulates a number of important functions, including cell proliferation and death, the synthesis of the genetic material and proteins and the activation of gene expression. These functions are regulated by changes in the concentration of glutathione, but the current methods do not allow for real-time measurements of glutathione levels inside cells. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital and Rice University have moved the field of glutathione research a step forward by developing a fluorescent probe - they called it RealThiol - that can measure real-time changes of glutathione concentration in living cells. Published in Nature Communications, this study offers a new tool to investigate the roles glutathione plays in aging, health and diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, among others.

"Until now, methods for measuring glutathione levels inside cells only allowed for one time point measurements," said corresponding author Dr. Jin Wang, associate professor of pharmacology and chemical biology and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor. "We wanted to develop a method that would allow biologists to measure how glutathione concentration inside cells changes in ."

How to measure glutathione changes in real time

Previous methods are based on irreversible chemical reactions that capture all the glutathione that is inside the cells, providing a one-time snapshot of its amount. Wang, who was trained as a physical organic chemist, and his colleagues looked for reversible chemical reactions that would capture and release glutathione, allowing for multiple measurements inside the same cell.

"Other researchers had succeeded at developing chemical probes for measuring the dynamic changes of calcium and zinc in cells using reversible chemical reactions," Wang said. "However, some researchers thought that the same could not be accomplished for glutathione."

In 2015, Wang and his colleagues published a proof of concept that a reversible reaction could be used to measure glutathione. Further research led to the current publication.

"The key contribution of the current study is that we optimized the and made the reaction much faster; both the forward and the reverse can be completed within one minute, allowing us to follow the dynamic changes on glutathione in living cells," Wang said. "Our method requires very small amounts of the probe, which results in little toxicity and poses minimal perturbance of the antioxidant capacity in the , and the probe can be used in various applications, from microscopy to cell sorting experiments."

Using RealThiol, the researchers measured enhanced antioxidant capability of activated neurons and dynamic glutathione changes during ferroptosis, a form of cell death. The Wang group is currently developing glutathione probes with different sub-cellular specificities. This new tool set can potentially generate knowledge that could help develop new strategies to treat diseases involving -mediated processes.

Explore further: Self-destroyed redox-sensitive stomatocyte nanomotor delivers and releases drugs for cells

More information: Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS16087

Related Stories

Self-destroyed redox-sensitive stomatocyte nanomotor delivers and releases drugs for cells

May 29, 2017
Autonomous targeting and release of drugs at their site of action are desired features of nanomedical systems. Now, a team of Dutch scientists has designed a nanomotor that has these functions: An antitumor drug encapsulated ...

Research shows oral supplement increases body's storage of antioxidant

April 23, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Oral supplementation of glutathione is effective in increasing the body's stores of the antioxidant, said Penn State College of Medicine researchers in study results presented at a conference today (April ...

Newly-revealed amino acid function could be used to boost antioxidant levels

December 14, 2016
A Japanese research team has become the first in the world to discover that 2-aminobutyric acid (2-AB) is closely involved in the metabolic regulation of the antioxidant glutathione, and that it can effectively raise levels ...

Boosting levels of known antioxidant may help resist age-related decline

October 24, 2016
Researchers at Oregon State University have found that a specific detoxification compound, glutathione, helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life - but its levels decline with age and this sets the stage for a wide ...

Preventive detention for oxidizing agents: Role of oxidative stress needs to be re-evaluated

December 17, 2012
Oxidative stress is believed to cause a number of diseases. Up to now, it has been common practice to measure oxidative stress levels by determining the oxidation state of a small molecule called glutathione in cell extracts. ...

A protective shield against the heavy metal uranium

June 6, 2016
Microorganisms can better withstand the heavy metal uranium when glutathione is present, a molecule composed of three amino acids. Scientists from the German based Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University ...

Recommended for you

New inflammation inhibitor discovered

November 16, 2018
A multidisciplinary team of researchers led from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed an anti-inflammatory drug molecule with a new mechanism of action. By inhibiting a certain protein, the researchers were able ...

Gut hormone and brown fat interact to tell the brain it's time to stop eating

November 15, 2018
Researchers from Germany and Finland have shown that so-called "brown fat" interacts with the gut hormone secretin in mice to relay nutritional signals about fullness to the brain during a meal. The study, appearing November ...

Brain, muscle cells found lurking in kidney organoids grown in lab

November 15, 2018
Scientists hoping to develop better treatments for kidney disease have turned their attention to growing clusters of kidney cells in the lab. One day, so-called organoids—grown from human stem cells—may help repair damaged ...

How the Tasmanian devil inspired researchers to create 'safe cell' therapies

November 15, 2018
A contagious facial cancer that has ravaged Tasmanian devils in southern Australia isn't the first place one would look to find the key to advancing cell therapies in humans.

Researchers discover important connection between cells in the liver

November 15, 2018
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have made a discovery which could lead to a new way of thinking about how disease pathogenesis in the liver is regulated, which is important for understanding the condition ...

Precision neuroengineering enables reproduction of complex brain-like functions in vitro

November 14, 2018
One of the most important and surprising traits of the brain is its ability to dynamically reconfigure the connections to process and respond properly to stimuli. Researchers from Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) and the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.