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Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Mar 1;30(5):489-99.

Unique in vivo applications of spin traps.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.


The ultimate goal of in vivo electron spin resonance (ESR) spin trapping is to provide a window to the characterization and quantification of free radicals with time within living organisms. However, the practical application of in vivo ESR to systems involving reactive oxygen radicals has proven challenging. Some of these limitations relate to instrument sensitivity and particularly to the relative stability of these radicals and their nitrone adducts, as well as toxicity limitations with dosing. Our aim here is to review the strengths and weaknesses of both traditional and in vivo ESR spin trapping and to describe new approaches that couple the strengths of spin trapping with methodologies that promise to overcome some of the problems, in particular that of radical adduct decomposition. The new, complementary techniques include: (i) NMR spin trapping, which monitors new NMR lines resulting from diamagnetic products of radical spin adduct degradation and reduction, (ii) detection of *NO by ESR with dithiocarbamate: Fe(II) "spin trap-like" complexes, (iii) MRI spin trapping, which images the dithiocarbamate: Fe(II)-NO complexes by proton relaxation contrast enhancement, and (iv) the use of ESR to follow the reactions of sulfhydryl groups with dithiol biradical spin labels to form "thiol spin label adducts," for monitoring intracellular redox states of glutathione and other thiols. Although some of these approaches are in their infancy, they show promise of adding to the arsenal of techniques to measure and possibly "image" oxidative stress in living organisms in real time.

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