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Biochem Pharmacol. 1989 Aug 15;38(16):2581-6.

Metabolism in rat liver microsomes of the nitroxide spin probe tempol.

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Department of Biophysics, University of Illinois College of Medicine at U.C.


Paramagnetic nitroxide spin labels have been extensively used to probe various biophysical and biochemical properties of the cellular environment. Recently nitroxides have been proposed as contrast enhancing agents in proton magnetic resonance imaging and contrast enhancement has been demonstrated in animal studies. Nitroxides, possessing a stable unpaired electron, increases the relaxation rates of protons, providing an enhancement of contrast. Nitroxides are metabolized intracellularly principally via reversible reduction to hydroxylamines. Rates of reduction depend on the physical characteristics of the nitroxides, in general 5-membered pyrrolidine ring are reduced more slowly than those with a 6-membered piperidine ring. Oxidation back to the nitroxide is relevant for lipid soluble hydroxylamines, while is low for water soluble ones. It is known that nitroxides are metabolized by subcellular fractions (cytosol, mitochondria, microsomes), though the enzymatic and non-enzymatic systems involved are poorly characterized. In the present study, the first of the necessary steps toward a systematic study of the metabolism of nitroxides by subcellular organelles, we have chosen to study the metabolism of 4-hydroxy 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-N-oxyl in isolated rat liver microsomes. Microsomes were able to reduce Tempol slowly without any substrate addition; when NADPH was added, the reduction rate substantially increased. In phenobarbitone induced rats the reduction rate was significantly higher than in not-induced microsomes. NADPH-dependent reduction rate was inhibited by thallium chloride (an inhibitor of the flavin-centered cytochrome P-450 reductase), superoxide dismutase, and by N-ethylmaleimide; menadione increased it. The Tempol reduction rate was not significantly affected by various cytochrome P-450 inhibitors with the sole exception of metyrapone. A solution containing purified cytochrome P-450 reductase and NADPH readily reduced Tempol. Microsomes fortified with NADPH were able to reduce Tempol at an appreciable rate. In order to distinguish between reduction of nitroxides to hydroxylamine or destruction of nitroxides following nitroxide reduction, microsomal suspensions were treated with a mild oxidant (ferricyanide 0.5-10 mM). The recovery varied from 40 to 60%, indicating a process of probe destruction leading to as yet unknown metabolites. The present study clearly indicates that, in this model system, cytochrome c (P-450) reductase and not cytochrome P-450 is responsible for the observed Tempol metabolism; along with hydroxylamine formation, other Tempol derived metabolites are formed during the process.

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