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J Biol Chem. 1991 Sep 15;266(26):17201-11.

Fenton chemistry. Amino acid oxidation.

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Laboratory of Biochemistry, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The oxidation of amino acids by Fenton reagent (H2O2 + Fe(II] leads mainly to the formation of NH+4, alpha-ketoacids, CO2, oximes, and aldehydes or carboxylic acids containing one less carbon atom. Oxidation is almost completely dependent on the presence of bicarbonate ion and is stimulated by iron chelators at levels which are substoichiometric with respect to the iron concentration but is inhibited at higher concentrations. The stimulatory effect of chelators is not due merely to solubilization of catalytically inactive polymeric forms of Fe(OH)3 nor to the conversion of Fe(II) to complexes incapable of scavenging hydroxyl radicals. The results suggest that an iron chelate and another as yet unidentified form of iron are both required for maximal rates of amino acid oxidation. The metal ion-catalyzed oxidation of amino acids is likely a "caged" process, since the oxidation is not inhibited by hydroxyl radical scavengers, and the relative rates of oxidation of various amino acids by the Fenton system as well as the distribution of products formed (especially products of aromatic amino acids) are significantly different from those reported for amino acid oxidation by ionizing radiation. Several iron-binding proteins, peptides, and hemoglobin degradation products can replace Fe(II) or Fe(III) in the bicarbonate-dependent oxidation of amino acids. In view of their ability to sequester metal ions and their susceptibility to oxidation by H2O2 in the presence of physiological concentrations of bicarbonate, amino acids may serve an important role in antioxidant defense against tissue damage.

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