The oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids results in the production of HNE, which can react through both non-enzymatic and enzyme catalyzed reactions to modify a number of cellular components, including proteins and DNA. Multiple pathways for its enzyme catalyzed elimination include oxidation of the aldehyde to a carboxylic acid, reduction of the aldehyde to an alcohol, and conjugation of the carbon-carbon double bond to glutathione (GSH). Interestingly, the enzymes that result in HNE elimination are induced by HNE itself although the chemical mechanism for signaling is not well understood. One of the striking effects of HNE is that after a transient decrease in GSH, synthesis of GSH is elevated through induction of glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL), which catalyzes the first step in de novo synthesis of GSH. GCL has two subunits, which are transcriptionally regulated by a wide variety of agents, including oxidants and electrophiles, such as HNE, which elevates both. The transcriptional regulation of GCL has been the subject of many investigations yielding a complex picture in which the pathways for up-regulation of the subunits appear to be independent and vary with inducing agent and cell type. We have found that in human bronchial epithelial cells, HNE acts through AP-1 activation with signaling through the JNK pathway, and that neither the ERK nor p38MAPK pathways is involved. With these results we review what is currently known about the signaling mechanisms for removal of HNE, focusing principally on conjugation mechanisms involving GSH. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.