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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1996 Aug 1;332(1):63-9.

Chlorination of cholesterol in cell membranes by hypochlorous acid.

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Department of Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine, New Zealand.


Neutrophils and monocytes produce the highly cytotoxic hypochlorous acid (HOCl) via the myeloperoxidase (MPO)-catalyzed reaction of H2O2 with Cl-. We have investigated the reaction of reagent and MPO-derived HOCl with cholesterol in a purified liposome system, as well as progressively more complex biological systems. The products were identified by thin-layer chromatography (TLC) and characterized by mass spectrometry (MS). TLC of the HOCl-treated samples gave four major cholesterol products with color development typical of oxysterols. Two of the products coeluted with authentic alpha- and beta-chlorohydrin standards. As was the case with the standards, they were readily converted into their respective epoxides during analysis by MS. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of the other major product (band 3) gave peaks consistent with epoxides as well as a lateeluting peak with a distinct mass spectrum. Electrospray MS of this product confirmed its identity as a chlorohydrin based on the presence of the predicted molecular ion and 3:1 Cl isotope ratios. Lipids extracted from red cells and isolated red cell membranes were exposed to HOCl and gave identical products to the purified cholesterol liposome system as determined by TLC and MS. Higher concentrations of HOCl were required due to competition by other unsaturated lipids and protein molecules. When intact red cells, neutrophils, and MCF7 mammary carcinoma cells were exposed to HOCl, cholesterol chlorohydrins were formed, as detected by TLC. The formation of cholesterol chlorohydrins could be potentially disruptive to cell membranes and result in cell lysis and death. They could also be potential biomarkers for oxidative damage associated with neutrophil/monocyte activation.

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