Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, which is largely mediated by oxidative stress. We investigated the effect of three glutathione (GSH) precursors: N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), cystine as the physiological carrier of cysteine in GSH with added selenomethionine (F1), and NAC fortified with selenomethionine (F2) on oxidative stress induced by spermine (a uremic toxin) in cultured human aortic vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC). VSMC were exposed to spermine (15 microM) with or without the given antioxidants (dose 50, 100, 200, and 500 microg/ml) or vehicle (control) and assessed for intracellular GSH levels, 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (4-HNE), and incorporation of 13C from glucose into alanine and protein. Spermine exposure reduced intracellular GSH levels, increased 4-HNE, and impaired glucose metabolism through reduction in pyruvate generation and/or transamination. Treatment with NAC had no effect on intracellular glutathione level. In contrast, F1 maintained intracellular GSH at control levels at all four doses. Subsequent studies performed with 200 microg/ml of F1, F2, or NAC (optimal dose) revealed normalization of 4-HNE, whereas restoration of 13C from glucose to alanine or protein to control values was only noted in the F1 group. Spermine-induced alterations in VSMC ultrastructure were prevented in approximately 90% of cells treated with F1 but only approximately 50% of cells treated with either NAC or F2. In conclusion, F1 was more effective than NAC or F2 in ameliorating spermine-induced reduction in intracellular GSH levels and cellular alterations in VSMC. The cystine-based GSH precursor (F1) is a promising antioxidant, and further studies are needed to examine the effect of this compound in preventing CKD-associated vascular disease.