The complex antioxidant network of plant and animal cells has the thiol tripeptide GSH at its centre to buffer ROS (reactive oxygen species) and facilitate cellular redox signalling which controls growth, development and defence. GSH is found in nearly every compartment of the cell, including the nucleus. Transport between the different intracellular compartments is pivotal to the regulation of cell proliferation. GSH co-localizes with nuclear DNA at the early stages of proliferation in plant and animal cells. Moreover, GSH recruitment and sequestration in the nucleus during the G1- and S-phases of the cell cycle has a profound impact on cellular redox homoeostasis and on gene expression. For example, the abundance of transcripts encoding stress and defence proteins is decreased when GSH is sequestered in the nucleus. The functions of GSHn (nuclear GSH) are considered in the present review in the context of whole-cell redox homoeostasis and signalling, as well as potential mechanisms for GSH transport into the nucleus. We also discuss the possible role of GSHn as a regulator of nuclear proteins such as histones and PARP [poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase] that control genetic and epigenetic events. In this way, a high level of GSH in the nucleus may not only have an immediate effect on gene expression patterns, but also contribute to how cells retain a memory of the cellular redox environment that is transferred through generations.

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