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J Am Chem Soc. 2005 Aug 17;127(32):11220-1.

Time-resolved detection of melanin free radicals quenching reactive oxygen species.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago, 5735 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Melanin, a ubiquitous, heterogeneous biological polymer composed of many different monomers, contains a population of stationary, intrinsic semiquinone-like radicals. Additional extrinsic semiquinone-like radicals are reversibly photogenerated with visible or UV irradiation. The free radical chemistry of melanin is complex and not well characterized, especially the photochemistry of melanin in the presence of oxygen. To determine directly how melanin reacts in the presence of oxygen, time-resolved electron paramagnetic resonance (TREPR) spectroscopy was used to examine melanin free radical chemistry in human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. A TREPR difference spectrum was used to explore the nature of melanin chemistry in the presence of oxygen. The position and symmetrical line shape of the TREPR three-dimensional difference spectrum shows that when reactive oxygen species (ROS) are scavenged, only one of the two or more chemically different melanin free radical species participates in ROS scavenging. This protective melanin radical species exists in both the extrinsic and intrinsic populations of melanin free radicals, allowing melanin to protect the RPE from toxic species in both the light and dark.

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