Trends in biochemical sciences

Unearthing the secrets of mitochondrial ROS and glutathione in bioenergetics.

PMID 24120033


During the cellular oxidation of fuels, electrons are used to power the proton pumps of the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) and ultimately drive ATP synthesis and the reduction of molecular oxygen to water. During these oxidative processes, some electrons can 'spin off' during fuel oxidation and electron transport to univalently reduce O2, forming reactive oxygen species (ROS). In excess, ROS can be detrimental; however, at low concentrations oxyradicals are essential signaling molecules. Mitochondria thus use a battery of systems to finely control types and levels of ROS, including antioxidants. Several antioxidant systems depend on glutathione. Here, we review mitochondrial ROS homeostatic systems, including emerging knowledge about roles of glutathione in redox balance and the control of protein function by post-translational modification.