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J Clin Invest. 1995 Aug;96(2):1131-6.

Mitochondrial respiration scavenges extramitochondrial superoxide anion via a nonenzymatic mechanism.

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Webb-Waring Institute for Biomedical Research, Denver, Colorado, USA.


We determined that mitochondrial respiration reduced cytosolic oxidant stress in vivo and scavenged extramitochondrial superoxide anion (O2-.) in vitro. First, Saccharomyces cerevisiae deficient in both the cytosolic antioxidant cupro-zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu,Zn-SOD) and electron transport (Rho0 state) grew poorly (P < 0.05) in 21% O2 compared with parent yeast and yeast deficient only in electron transport or Cu,Zn-SOD, whereas anaerobic growth was the same (P > 0.05) in all yeast. Second, isolated yeast and mammalian mitochondria scavenged extramitochondrial O2-. generated by xanthine/xanthine oxidase. Yeast mitochondria scavenged 42% more (P < 0.05) extramitochondrial O2-. during pyruvate/malate-induced respiration than in the resting state. Addition of either antimycin (respiratory chain inhibitor) or FCCP (respiratory chain uncoupler) prevented increased O2-. scavenging. Mitochondria isolated from yeast deficient in the mitochondrial manganous superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD) increased (P < 0.05) O2-. scavenging 56% during respiration. This apparent SOD activity, expressed in units of SOD activity per milligram of mitochondrial protein, was the same (9 +/- 0.6 vs. 10 +/- 1.0; P = 0.43) as the O2-. scavenging of mitochondria with Mn-SOD, suggesting that respiration-dependent mitochondrial O2-. scavenging was nonenzymatic. Finally, isolated rat liver and lung mitochondria also increased (P < 0.05) O2-. scavenging during respiration. We speculate that respiring mitochondria, via the protonmotive pump, present a polarized, proton-rich surface that enhances nonenzymatic dismutation of extramitochondrial O2-. and that this is a previously unrecognized function of mitochondrial respiration with potential physiological ramifications.

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