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Free Radic Res. 2001 Apr;34(4):325-36.

Invited review: manganese superoxide dismutase in disease.

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  • 1Pharmacology; University of Alabama at Birmingham 1900 8th Avenue, South Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) is essential for life as dramatically illustrated by the neonatal lethality of mice that are deficient in MnSOD. In addition, mice expressing only 50% of the normal compliment of MnSOD demonstrate increased susceptibility to oxidative stress and severe mitochondrial dysfunction resulting from elevation of reactive oxygen species. Thus, it is important to know the status of both MnSOD protein levels and activity in order to assess its role as an important regulator of cell biology. Numerous studies have shown that MnSOD can be induced to protect against pro-oxidant insults resulting from cytokine treatment, ultraviolet light, irradiation, certain tumors, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and ischemia/reperfusion. In addition, overexpression of MnSOD has been shown to protect against pro-apoptotic stimuli as well as ischemic damage. Conversely, several studies have reported declines in MnSOD activity during diseases including cancer, aging, progeria, asthma, and transplant rejection. The precise biochemical/molecular mechanisms involved with this loss in activity are not well understood. Certainly, MnSOD gene expression or other defects could play a role in such inactivation. However, based on recent findings regarding the susceptibility of MnSOD to oxidative inactivation, it is equally likely that post-translational modification of MnSOD may account for the loss of activity. Our laboratory has recently demonstrated that MnSOD is tyrosine nitrated and inactivated during human kidney allograft rejection and human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. We have determined that peroxynitrite (ONOO- ) is the only known biological oxidant competent to inactivate enzymatic activity, to nitrate critical tyrosine residues, and to induce dityrosine formation in MnSOD. Tyrosine nitration and inactivation of MnSOD would lead to increased levels of superoxide and concomitant increases in ONOO- within the mitochondria which, could lead to tyrosine nitration/oxidation of key mitochondrial proteins and ultimately mitochondrial dysfunction and cell death. This article assesses the important role of MnSOD activity in various pathological states in light of this potentially lethal positive feedback cycle involving oxidative inactivation.

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