Characterization of free radical generation by xanthine oxidase. Evidence for hydroxyl radical generation

P. Kuppusamy, J. L. Zweier

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216 Scopus citations


Xanthine oxidase has been hypothesized to be an important source of biological free radical generation. The enzyme generates the superoxide radical, a.O2- and has been widely applied as a .O2- generating system; however, the enzyme may also generate other forms of reduced oxygen. We have applied electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy using the spin trap 5,5'-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide (DMPO) to characterize the different radical species generated by xanthine oxidase along with the mechanisms of their generation. Upon reaction of xanthine with xanthine oxidase equilibrated with air, both DMPO-OOH and DMPO-OH radicals are observed. In the presence of ethanol or dimethyl sulfoxide, α-hydroxyethyl or methyl radicals are generated, respectively, indicating that significant DMPO-OH generation occurred directly from OH rather than simply from the breakdown of DMPO-OOH. Superoxide dismutase totally scavenged the DMPO-OOH signal but not the DMPO-OH signal suggesting that .O2- was not required for .OH generation. Catalase markedly decreased the DMPO-OH signal, while superoxide dismutase + catalase totally scavenged all radical generation. Thus, xanthine oxidase generates .OH via the reduction of O2 to H2O2, which in turn is reduced to .OH. In anaerobic preparations, the enzyme reduces H2O2 to .OH as evidenced by the appearance of a pure DMPO-OH signal. The presence of the flavin in the enzyme is required for both .O2- and .OH generation confirming that the flavin is the site of O2 reduction. The ratio of .O2- and .OH generation was affected by the relative concentrations of dissolved O2 and H2O2. Thus, xanthine oxidase can generate the highly reactive .OH radical as well as the less reactive .O2- radical. The direct production of .OH by xanthine oxidase in cells and tissues containing this enzyme could explain the presence of oxidative cellular damage which is not prevented by superoxide dismutase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9880-9884
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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