Measurement of endothelial cell free radical generation: Evidence for a central mechanism of free radical injury in postischemic tissues

J. L. Zweier, P. Kuppusamy, G. A. Lutty

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Oxygen free radicals have been demonstrated to be important mediators of postischemic reperfusion injury in a broad variety of tissues; however, the cellular source of free radical generation is still unknown. In this study, electron paramagnetic resonance measurements with the spin trap 5,5'-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide (DMPO) demonstrate that bovine endothelial cells subjected to anoxia and reoxygenation become potent generators of superoxide and hydroxyl free radicals. A prominent DMPO-OH signals a(N) = a(H) = 14.9 G is observed on reoxygenation after 45 min of anoxic incubation. Quantitative measurements of this free radical generation and the time course of radical generation are performed. Both superoxide dismutase and catalase totally abolish this radical signal, suggesting that O2 is sequentially reduced from O2-. to H2O2 to OH·. Addition of ethanol resulted in trapping of the ethoxy radical, further confirming the generation of OH·. Endothelial radical generation was shown to cause cell death, as evidenced by trypan blue uptake. Radical generation was partially inhibited and partially scavenged by the xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol. Marked inhibition of radical generation was observed with the potent xanthine oxidase inhibitor oxypurinol. These studies demonstrate that endothelial cells subjected to anoxia and reoxygenation, conditions observed in ischemic and reperfused tissues, generate a burst of superoxide-derived hydroxyl free radicals that in turn cause cell injury and cell death. Most of this free radical generation appears to be from the enzyme xanthine oxidase. Thus, endothelial cell free radical generation may be a central mechanism of cellular injury in postischemic tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4046-4050
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988


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