Augmentation of glutathione in the fluid lining the epithelium of the lower respiratory tract by directly administering glutathione aerosol.
Glutathione (GSH), a cysteine-containing tripeptide, functions as an antioxidant, provides cells with cysteine, and is required for optimal function of the immune system. Because the epithelial-lining fluid (ELF) of the lower respiratory tract normally contains high GSH levels and lung ELF GSH deficiency states can exist, we evaluated the feasibility of augmenting lung ELF GSH levels by (i) administering GSH to sheep i.v. and by direct aerosolization and then (ii) measuring the GSH levels in lung ELF, lung lymph, venous plasma, and urine. When GSH (600 mg) was administered i.v. (n = 11), GSH levels in venous plasma, lung lymph, and ELF rose, but only transiently, suggesting the i.v. route would not deliver adequate GSH to the alveolar epithelial surface. For directly administering GSH to the lung by the aerosol route, in vitro studies were first conducted to show that greater than 50% of a GSH solution could be converted to droplets less than 3 microns in aerodynamic diameter without oxidizing the GSH. To target functional GSH to the lower respiratory tract, an aerosolized solution of GSH (600 mg) was administered to sheep (n = 12). Significantly, the GSH level in ELF increased 7-fold at 30 min (preaerosol, 45.7 +/- 10 microM; 30-min postaerosol, 337 +/- 64 microM; P less than 0.001). The ELF GSH levels remained above baseline at 1 hr (P less than 0.01), returning toward baseline over a 2-hr period. In contrast, GSH levels in lung lymph, venous plasma, and urine were not significantly increased during the period--i.e., aerosol therapy selectively augmented the GSH levels only at the lung epithelial surface. Thus, functional GSH can be delivered by aerosol to directly augment the ELF GSH levels of the lower respiratory tract. Such an approach may prove useful in treating a variety of lung disorders.