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Free Radic Res. 2003 Apr;37(4):391-7.

Irradiation of cells with ultraviolet-A (320-400 nm) in the presence of cell culture medium elicits biological effects due to extracellular generation of hydrogen peroxide.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Postfach 101007, D-40001 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Biological effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) irradiation have been ascribed to the photochemical generation of singlet oxygen. Not all effects described in the literature, however, are explicable solely by the generation of singlet oxygen, but rather resemble effects elicited by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Here, we show that when cells are kept in cell culture media during exposure to UVA, stress kinases, including ERK 1 and ERK 2 as well as Akt (protein kinase B), are activated, whereas there is no or only minor activation when cells are kept in phosphate-buffered saline during irradiation. Indeed, the exposure of cell culture media to UVA (30 J/cm2) results in the generation of significant amounts of H2O2, with concentrations of about 100 microM. H2O2 concentrations are at least three-fold higher in HEPES-buffered culture media after UVA irradiation. From experiments with solutions of riboflavin, tryptophan or HEPES, as well as combinations thereof, it is concluded that riboflavin mediates the photooxidation of either tryptophan or HEPES, resulting in the generation of H2O2. Thus, if signaling effects of UVA radiation are to be investigated in cell culture systems, riboflavin and HEPES/tryptophan should be avoided during irradiation because of artificial H2O2 generation. It should be taken into account, however, that in vivo tryptophan and riboflavin might play an important role in the generation of reactive oxygen species by UVA as both substances are abundant in living tissues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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