We investigated the hypothesis that glutathione (GSH) in reproductive tract secretions (RTS) protects the preimplantation embryo from endogenous reactive oxygen species and is important for normal development during the embryo's sensitive period when it is incapable of synthesizing GSH de novo. Mice were administered buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) to inhibit GSH synthesis and decrease GSH concentration in RTS. Embryos were then allowed to develop either in vivo or in vitro in the presence of RTS and the GSH concentration of the embryos was quantified by HPLC and embryonic development was recorded. GSH concentration in RTS did not differ over the phases of the estrous cycle, but there were significant decreases in GSH concentration on Day 2 of gestation and due to BSO treatment. Embryos allowed to develop in vivo and in vitro in RTS with decreased GSH concentration did not exhibit decreased development or GSH concentration. Oocytes exposed to BSO during maturation in vivo experienced a significant decrease in GSH concentration and an increase in percent of degenerate embryos when compared with control. These data suggest that most of the GSH in RTS does not play a critical role in normal preimplantation embryo development but that GSH stored in the oocyte during maturation has an important role in subsequent embryo development. Our studies do not exclude the possibility that GSH in RTS plays an important role in protection of the preimplantation embryo during exposure to some toxicants.
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