Glutathione (GSH) is a major component of the antioxidant defence system of mammalian cells and is found in subcellular pools within the cytoplasm, nucleus and mitochondria. To evaluate the relationships between these pools and parameters of oxidative stress related to genotoxicity, wild type (WT) and 8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine glycosylase 1 (OGG1)-null (mOGG1(-/-)) mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) were treated with buthionine sulphoximine (BSO; 0-1000 mu M, 24 h), an inhibitor of GSH biosynthesis. BSO treatment resulted in a concentration-dependent depletion of GSH from the cytoplasm, but depletion of mitochondrial and nuclear GSH occurred only at concentrations >= 100 mu M. GSH levels were correlated with reactive oxygen species (ROS), lipid peroxidation (measured as the increase in the genotoxic end-product malondialdehyde (MDA)) and oxidative DNA modifications, measured as both frank DNA strand-breaks (FSB) and oxidized purine lesions (OxP) using the alkaline comet assay with formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG) modification; this system allowed for the identification of BSO-induced DNA modifications as primarily mutagenic 8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine lesions. A number of significant correlations were observed. First, negative linear correlations were observed between mitochondrial GSH and ROS (r = -0.985 and r = -0.961 for WT and mOGG1(-/-) MEF, respectively), and mitochondrial GSH and MDA (r = -0.967 and r = -0.963 for WT and mOGG1(-/-) MEF, respectively). Second, positive linear correlations were observed between ROS and MDA (r = 0.996 and r = 0.935 for WT and mOGG1(-/-) MEF, respectively), and ROS and OxP (r = 0.938 and r = 0.981 for WT and mOGG1(-/-) MEF, respectively). Finally, oxidative DNA modifications displayed a negative linear correlation with nuclear GSH (r = -0.963 and -0.951 between nuclear GSH and FSB and OxP, respectively, for WT MEF and r = -0.960 between nuclear GSH and OxP in mOGG1(-/-) MEF), thus, demonstrating the genotoxic potential of compounds that deplete GSH. The findings highlight the critical roles of the mitochondrial and nuclear GSH pools in protecting cellular components, particularly DNA, from oxidative modification.