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J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Jan 9;135(1):272-9. doi: 10.1021/ja308930a. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

Antioxidant β-carotene does not quench singlet oxygen in mammalian cells.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Fisicoquímicas Teóricas y Aplicadas (INIFTA), CCT-La Plata-CONICET, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Casilla de Correo 16, Sucursal 4 (1900), La Plata, Argentina.


Carotenoids, and β-carotene in particular, are important natural antioxidants. Singlet oxygen, the lowest excited state of molecular oxygen, is an intermediate often involved in natural oxidation reactions. The fact that β-carotene efficiently quenches singlet oxygen in solution-phase systems is invariably invoked when explaining the biological antioxidative properties of β-carotene. We recently developed unique microscope-based time-resolved spectroscopic methods that allow us to directly examine singlet oxygen in mammalian cells. We now demonstrate that intracellular singlet oxygen, produced in a photosensitized process, is in fact not efficiently deactivated by β-carotene. This observation requires a re-evaluation of β-carotene's role as an antioxidant in mammalian systems and now underscores the importance of mechanisms by which β-carotene inhibits radical reactions.

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