In the present study, we investigated the role of glutathione (GSH) and its related enzymes in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats subjected to microcystin-leucine-arginine (MCLR)-induced hepatotoxicity. SD rats were intraperitoneally (i.p.) injected with MCLR after pretreating with or without buthionine-(S,R)-sulfoximine (BSO), an inhibitor of GSH synthesis. The depletion of GSH with BSO enhanced MCLR-induced oxidative stress, resulting in more severe liver damage and higher MCLR accumulation. Similarly, the contents of malondialdehyde (MDA), total GSH (T-GSH), oxidized GSH (GSSG) and GSH were significantly enhanced in BSO pretreated rats following MCLR treatment. The study showed that the transcription of GSH-related enzymes such as glutathione-S-transferase (GST), γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS), glutathione reductase (GR) varied in different ways (expect for glutathione peroxidase (GPx), whose gene expression was induced in all treated groups) with or without BSO pretreatment before MCLR exposure, suggesting an adaptative response of GSH-related enzymes at transcription level to combat enhancement of oxidative stress induced by MCLR when pretreated with BSO. These data suggested the tissues with low GSH concentration are highly vulnerable to MCLR toxicity and GSH was critical for the detoxification in MCLR-induced hepatotoxicity in vivo. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 30: 1470–1480, 2015.