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Bioessays. 1994 Jul;16(7):497-502.

Oxygen and the control of gene expression.

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Institute of Biochemistry, University of Freiburg, Germany.


The respiration of oxygen, while essential to aerobic organisms for the generation of energy, leads to the formation of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROIs) as harmful byproducts. ROIs damage nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. Therefore, protective mechanisms against elevated intracellular ROI levels, referred to as oxidative stress, have evolved. These include the activation of transcription factors which elevate the expression of protective enzymes. Eukaryotic cells have also evolved the ability to specifically generate ROIs following stimulation with various agents. In these cases, ROIs are used as second messengers to activate gene expression. Here we will discuss both prokaryotic and eukaryotic transcription factors that respond to ROIs. In addition, transcription factors will be described that are activated by either exposure to antioxidants, which reduce the intracellular ROI concentration, or by hypoxia, the absence of oxygen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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