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Xenobiotica. 1991 Aug;21(8):1085-90.

Are free radicals involved in lead poisoning?

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.


1. The enolamine form of 5-aminolaevulinic acid (ALA), a haem precursor that accumulates in lead poisoning and in acute intermittent porphyria (AIP), undergoes fast autoxidation at slightly alkaline pH with concomitant generation of reactive oxygen species. 2. The transmembrane potential, Ca2+ ion fluxes and state-4 respiratory rate, of isolated rat liver mitochondria are severely affected by mM addition of ALA; the toxic role of ALA-produced oxygen radicals was demonstrated by use of appropriate scavengers. 3. Induction of superoxide dismutase biosynthesis in lead-exposed workers, in AIP carriers and in ALA-treated rats, is viewed as a protective response against oxygen radical toxicity. 4. 5-Aminolaevulinic acid-generated oxygen radicals, together with Pb-stimulated Fe-dependent lipid peroxidation, might be involved in the aetiology of the neuropsychiatric manifestations of both plumbism and acute intermittent porphyria.

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