Reduction of protein radicals by GSH and ascorbate: Potential biological significance

Janusz M. Gebicki, Thomas Nauser, Anastasia Domazou, Daniel Steinmann, Patricia L. Bounds, Willem H. Koppenol

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    93 Citations (Scopus)


    The oxidation of proteins and other macromolecules by radical species under conditions of oxidative stress can be modulated by antioxidant compounds. Decreased levels of the antioxidants glutathione and ascorbate have been documented in oxidative stress-related diseases. A radical generated on the surface of a protein can: (1) be immediately and fully repaired by direct reaction with an antioxidant; (2) react with dioxygen to form the corresponding peroxyl radical; or (3) undergo intramolecular long range electron transfer to relocate the free electron to another amino acid residue. In pulse radiolysis studies, in vitro production of the initial radical on a protein is conveniently made at a tryptophan residue, and electron transfer often leads ultimately to residence of the unpaired electron on a tyrosine residue. We review here the kinetics data for reactions of the antioxidants glutathione, selenocysteine, and ascorbate with tryptophanyl and tyrosyl radicals as free amino acids in model compounds and proteins. Glutathione repairs a tryptophanyl radical in lysozyme with a rate constant of (1.05 ± 0.05) × 105 M -1s-1, while ascorbate repairs tryptophanyl and tyrosyl radicals ca. 3 orders of magnitude faster. The in vitro reaction of glutathione with these radicals is too slow to prevent formation of peroxyl radicals, which become reduced by glutathione to hydroperoxides; the resulting glutathione thiyl radical is capable of further radical generation by hydrogen abstraction. Although physiologically not significant, selenoglutathione reduces tyrosyl radicals as fast as ascorbate. The reaction of protein radicals formed on insulin, β-lactoglobulin, pepsin, chymotrypsin and bovine serum albumin with ascorbate is relatively rapid, competes with the reaction with dioxygen, and the relatively innocuous ascorbyl radical is formed. On the basis of these kinetics data, we suggest that reductive repair of protein radicals may contribute to the well-documented depletion of ascorbate in living organisms subjected to oxidative stress.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1131-1137
    Number of pages7
    JournalAmino Acids
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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