Reduced glutathione, in concentrations approximating those occurring in intact rat liver, causes swelling of rat liver mitochondria in vitro which is different in kinetics and extent from that yielded by L-thyroxine. The effect is also given by cysteine, which is more active, and reduced coenzyme A, but not by L-ascorbate, cystine, or oxidized glutathione. The optimum pH is 6.5, whereas thyroxine-induced swelling is optimal at pH 7.5.
The GSH-induced swelling is not inhibited by DNP or dicumarol, nor by high concentrations of sucrose, serum albumin, or polyvinylpyrrolidone, in contrast to thyroxine-induced swelling. ATP inhibits the GSH swelling, but ADP and AMP are ineffective. Mn-+ is a very potent inhibitor, but Mg++ is ineffective. Ethylenediaminetetraacetate is also an effective inhibitor of GSH-induced swelling. The respiratory inhibitors amytal and antimycin A do not inhibit the swelling action of GSH, but cyanide does; these findings are consistent with the view that the oxidation-reduction state of the respiratory chain between cytochrome c and oxygen is a determinant of GSH-induced swelling.
Reversal of GSH-induced swelling by osmotic means or by ATP in KCl media could not be observed. Large losses of nucleotides and protein occur during the swelling by GSH, suggesting that the action is irreversible. The characteristically drastic swelling action of GSH could be prevented if L-thyroxine was also present in the medium.