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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2006 Sep;291(3):R491-511. Epub 2006 Apr 20.

Free radical biology and medicine: it's a gas, man!

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Biodynamics Institute, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.


We review gases that can affect oxidative stress and that themselves may be radicals. We discuss O(2) toxicity, invoking superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and the hydroxyl radical. We also discuss superoxide dismutase (SOD) and both ground-state, triplet oxygen ((3)O(2)), and the more energetic, reactive singlet oxygen ((1)O(2)). Nitric oxide ((*)NO) is a free radical with cell signaling functions. Besides its role as a vasorelaxant, (*)NO and related species have other functions. Other endogenously produced gases include carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO(2)), and hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S). Like (*)NO, these species impact free radical biochemistry. The coordinated regulation of these species suggests that they all are used in cell signaling. Nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and the carbonate radical (CO(3)(*-)) react selectively at moderate rates with nonradicals, but react fast with a second radical. These reactions establish "cross talk" between reactive oxygen (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). Some of these species can react to produce nitrated proteins and nitrolipids. It has been suggested that ozone is formed in vivo. However, the biomarkers that were used to probe for ozone reactions may be formed by non-ozone-dependent reactions. We discuss this fascinating problem in the section on ozone. Very low levels of ROS or RNS may be mitogenic, but very high levels cause an oxidative stress that can result in growth arrest (transient or permanent), apoptosis, or necrosis. Between these extremes, many of the gasses discussed in this review will induce transient adaptive responses in gene expression that enable cells and tissues to survive. Such adaptive mechanisms are thought to be of evolutionary importance.

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