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Biochemistry. 2000 Oct 10;39(40):12503-11.

Reaction of hydrogen peroxide with ferrylhemoglobin: superoxide production and heme degradation.

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  • 1Section on Molecular Dynamics, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


The reaction of Fe(II) hemoglobin (Hb) but not Fe(III) hemoglobin (metHb) with hydrogen peroxide results in degradation of the heme moiety. The observation that heme degradation was inhibited by compounds, which react with ferrylHb such as sodium sulfide, and peroxidase substrates (ABTS and o-dianisidine), demonstrates that ferrylHb formation is required for heme degradation. A reaction involving hydrogen peroxide and ferrylHb was demonstrated by the finding that heme degradation was inihibited by the addition of catalase which removed hydrogen peroxide even after the maximal level of ferrylHb was reached. The reaction of hydrogen peroxide with ferrylHb to produce heme degradation products was shown by electron paramagnetic resonance to involve the one-electron oxidation of hydrogen peroxide to the oxygen free radical, superoxide. The inhibition by sodium sulfide of both superoxide production and the formation of fluorescent heme degradation products links superoxide production with heme degradation. The inability to produce heme degradation products by the reaction of metHb with hydrogen peroxide was explained by the fact that hydrogen peroxide reacting with oxoferrylHb undergoes a two-electron oxidation, producing oxygen instead of superoxide. This reaction does not produce heme degradation, but is responsible for the catalytic removal of hydrogen peroxide. The rapid consumption of hydrogen peroxide as a result of the metHb formed as an intermediate during the reaction of reduced hemoglobin with hydrogen peroxide was shown to limit the extent of heme degradation.

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