This Mini-Review summarizes the historic developments and technological achievements in the biotechnological production of glutathione in the past 30 years. Glutathione is the most abundant non-protein thiol compound present in living organisms. It is used as a pharmaceutical compound and can be used in food additives and the cosmetic industries. Glutathione can be produced using enzymatic methods in the presence of ATP and its three precursor amino acids (L-glutamic acid, L-cysteine, glycine). Alternatively, glutathione can be produced by direct fermentative methods using sugar as a starting material. In the latter method, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida utilis are currently used to produce glutathione on an industrial scale. At the molecular level, the genes gshA and gshB, which encode the enzymes gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase and glutathione synthetase, respectively, have been cloned from Escherichia coli and over-expressed in E. coli, S. cerevisiae, and Lactococcus lactis. It is anticipated that, with the design and/or discovery of novel producers, the biotechnological production of glutathione will be further improved to expand the application range of this physiologically and medically important tripeptide.
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