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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Nov;36(11):2334-43.

Proteins are major initial cell targets of hydroxyl free radicals.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.


The principal aim of the current study was to identify the initial cell targets of hydroxyl free radicals. Our recent report showed that proteins were oxidized before lipids in U937 cells exposed to peroxyl radicals. Extending this finding, we investigated whether a similar oxidation sequence occurs in other lines of cells, whether hydroxyl radicals can also initiate cell protein oxidation, and whether DNA fragmentation is an early event in radical-induced cell damage. Mouse myeloma Sp2/0-Ag14 and U937 cells were exposed to hydroxyl radicals generated in solution by gamma irradiation and the formation of protein peroxides measured by a ferric-xylenol orange assay. No lipid peroxidation or DNA damage was evident by the time of significant formation of protein peroxides. DNA fragmentation was detectable after prolonged incubation at 37 degrees C and was characteristic of enzymatic action rather than of random scission by the radicals. Yields of protein hydroperoxides in the irradiated cells were independent of composition of the medium, suggesting that only the radicals produced within the cells or immediately near the cell surface were effective in oxidizing the cell proteins. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that proteins are major initial targets of free radicals in cells and suggest that treatments leading to the prevention of protein oxidation or to harmless reduction of protein peroxides is likely to result in alleviation of radical-induced biological damage.

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