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Free Radic Res Commun. 1993;18(2):87-98.

Stimulating effects of mercuric- and silver ions on the superoxide anion production in human polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

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Department of Radiobiology, Stockholm University, Sweden.


In a survey of a number of heavy metal ions for effects on the oxidative metabolism (respiratory burst) of human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (neutrophils) we have found that mercury(II) and silver ions in micromolar concentration significantly increase the production of superoxide anions in cells, initiated by formyl-methionyl-leucylphenylalanine (fMLP). The stimulation of radical formation induced by a certain ion concentration varied considerably in cells isolated from different blood donors, from a moderate increase to a very large (up to 400% of control values). When the soluble stimulator phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) or the particulate stimulator Zymosan were used to initiate the cell respiratory burst, no additional stimulating effects by the metal ions on superoxide anion formation were observed. This fact might indicate that the effect of the metal ions on the fMLP-dependent initiation of cell activity is a mechanism coupled to the interaction between the chemotactic peptide and its corresponding receptor molecules on the cell surface. By increasing the concentration of silver ions during pre-incubation of resting neutrophils, a spontaneous activation of the cells could be recorded at a concentration exceeding 5 microM. However, the silver ion concentration at which such spontaneous initiation of the respiratory burst occurred varied significantly between blood samples from different donors with a concentration range of 5 to 15 microM. This effect could not be shown for mercuric ions due to the toxicity of the metal above 5 microM. Blood samples from some donors contained neutrophils that could be activated by either mercuric- or silver ions at concentration as low at 1 microM. The spontaneous activation of neutrophils with elevated concentrations of silver ions is kinetically similar to the PMA-induced. The onset of superoxide anion formation is preceded by a lag period whose length varies in time with the concentration of agent applied to the cells. It is a known fact that once the neutrophils have been activated with fMLP it is not possible to reactivate the cells by a second supplementation of fMLP. However, after cessation of the fMLP-induced activation, addition of PMA or silver ions gives rise to renewed production of superoxide anions. We propose two different mechanisms of action of silver ions on oxidative metabolism of neutrophils.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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