Glutathione synthesis is essential for mouse development but not for cell growth in culture
Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic
Glutathione (GSH) is a major source of reducing equivalents in mammalian cells. To examine the role of GSH synthesis in development and cell growth, we generated mice deficient in GSH by a targeted disruption of the heavy subunit of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gammaGCS-HS(tm1)), an essential enzyme in GSH synthesis. Embryos homozygous for gammaGCS-HS(tm1) fail to gastrulate, do not form mesoderm, develop distal apoptosis, and die before day 8.5. Lethality results from apoptotic cell death rather than reduced cell proliferation. We also isolated cell lines from homozygous mutant blastocysts in medium containing GSH. These cells also grow indefinitely in GSH-free medium supplemented with N-acetylcysteine and have undetectable levels of GSH; further, they show no changes in mitochondrial morphology as judged by electron microscopy. These data demonstrate that GSH is required for mammalian development but dispensable in cell culture and that the functions of GSH, not GSH itself, are essential for cell growth.