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FASEB J. 1990 Jun;4(9):2587-97.

Role of oxygen free radicals in carcinogenesis and brain ischemia.

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  • 1Molecular Toxicology Research Group, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City 73104.


Even though oxygen is necessary for aerobic life, it can also participate in potentially toxic reactions involving oxygen free radicals and transition metals such as Fe that damage membranes, proteins, and nucleic acids. Oxygen free radical reactions and oxidative damage are in most cases held in check by antioxidant defense mechanisms, but where an excessive amount of oxygen free radicals are produced or defense mechanisms are impaired, oxidative damage may occur and this appears to be important in contributing to several pathological conditions including aging, carcinogenesis, and stroke. Several newer methods, such as in vivo spin-trapping, have become available to monitor oxygen free radical flux and quantitate oxidative damage. Using a combination of these newer methods collectively focused on one model, recent results show that oxidative damage plays a key role in brain injury that occurs in stroke. Subtle changes, such as oxidative damage-induced loss of glutamine synthetase activity, may be a key event in stroke-induced brain injury. Oxygen free radicals may play a key role in carcinogenesis by mediating formation of base adducts, such as 8-hydroxyguanine, which can now be quantitated to very low levels. Evidence is presented that a new class of free radical blocking agents, nitrone spin-traps, may help not only to clarify if free radical events are involved, but may help prevent the development of injury in certain pathological conditions.

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