Glutathione plays numerous important functions in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Whereas it can be found in virtually all eukaryotic cells, its production in prokaryotes is restricted to cyanobacteria and proteobacteria and a few strains of gram-positive bacteria. In bacteria, it is involved in the protection against reactive oxygen species (ROS), osmotic shock, acidic conditions, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals. Glutathione synthesis in bacteria takes place in two steps out of cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Cysteine is the limiting factor for glutathione biosynthesis which can be especially crucial for cyanobacteria, which rely on both the sufficient sulfur supply from the growth media and on the protection of glutathione against ROS that are produced during photosynthesis. In this study, we report a method that allows detection and visualization of the subcellular distribution of glutathione in Synechocystis sp. This method is based on immunogold cytochemistry with glutathione and cysteine antisera and computer-supported transmission electron microscopy. Labeling of glutathione and cysteine was restricted to the cytosol and interthylakoidal spaces. Glutathione and cysteine could not be detected in carboxysomes, cyanophycin granules, cell walls, intrathylakoidal spaces, periplasm, and vacuoles. The accuracy of the glutathione and cysteine labeling is supported by two observations. First, preadsorption of the antiglutathione and anticysteine antisera with glutathione and cysteine, respectively, reduced the density of the gold particles to background levels. Second, labeling of glutathione and cysteine was strongly decreased by 98.5% and 100%, respectively, in Synechocystis sp. cells grown on media without sulfur. This study indicates a strong similarity of the subcellular distribution of glutathione and cysteine in cyanobacteria and plastids of plants and provides a deeper insight into glutathione metabolism in bacteria.
B. Zechmann, A. Tomašić, L. Horvat