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The term GSSG/GSH redox potential is frequently used to explain redox regulation and other biological processes. The relevance of the GSSG/GSH redox potential as driving force of biological processes is critically discussed. It is recalled that the concentration ratio of GSSG and GSH reflects little else than a steady state, which overwhelmingly results from fast enzymatic processes utilizing, degrading or regenerating GSH. A biological GSSG/GSH redox potential, as calculated by the Nernst equation, is a deduced electrochemical parameter based on direct measurements of GSH and GSSG that are often complicated by poorly substantiated assumptions. It is considered irrelevant to the steering of any biological process. GSH-utilizing enzymes depend on the concentration of GSH, not on [GSH](2), as is predicted by the Nernst equation, and are typically not affected by GSSG. Regulatory processes involving oxidants and GSH are considered to make use of mechanistic principles known for thiol peroxidases which catalyze the oxidation of hydroperoxides by GSH by means of an enzyme substitution mechanism involving only bimolecular reaction steps. The negligibly small rate constants of related spontaneous reactions as compared with enzyme-catalyzed ones underscore the superiority of kinetic parameters over electrochemical or thermodynamic ones for an in-depth understanding of GSH-dependent biological phenomena. At best, the GSSG/GSH potential might be useful as an analytical tool to disclose disturbances in redox metabolism. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Cellular Functions of Glutathione. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Leopold Flohé. The fairytale of the GSSG/GSH redox potential. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 2013 May;1830(5):3139-42

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PMID: 23127894

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