Glutathione is important in the regulation of the redox state, and a decline in its tissue level has often been considered to be indicative of increased oxidative stress in diabetes. In this study of diabetic rats, the level of hepatic glutathione was normal unless food intake was restricted. Thus, the previous report of a reduction in hepatic glutathione in diabetes is likely to be the result of food deprivation rather than diabetes alone. In contrast to changes characteristic of oxidative stress, the efflux of glutathione in bile from diabetic animals was significantly decreased, whereas hepatic mixed disulfides were unchanged, and the hepatic γ-glutamyltransferase activity was considerably increased. These changes were not reproduced by food deprivation. The decrease in biliary excretion of glutathione in diabetes may reflect an attempt to conserve glutathione by activation of the hepatic γ-glutamyl cycle. We conclude that the disturbances of glutathione metabolism in diabetes are not typical of those seen in oxidative stress or food restriction.

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