S-Conjugates of glutathione influence the glutathione/glutathione disulfide (GSH/GSSG) status of hepatocytes in at least two ways, namely by inhibition of GSSG transport into the bile [Akerboom et al. (1982) FEBS Lett. 140, 73-76] and by inhibition of the enzyme GSSG reductase (EC 184.108.40.206). The interaction of GSSG reductase with a well-studied conjugate, namely S-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)-glutathione and its electrophilic precursor 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene are described. For short exposures both compounds are reversible inhibitors of the enzyme, the Ki values being 30 microM and 22 microM respectively. After prolonged incubation, 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene blocks GSSG reductase irreversibly, which emphasizes the need for rapid conjugate formation in situ. As shown by X-ray crystallography the major binding site of S-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)-glutathione in GSSG reductase overlaps the binding site of the substrate, glutathione disulfide. However, the glutathione moiety of the conjugate does not bind in the same manner as either of the glutathiones in the disulfide.