In vivo, proteins are the main targets for radicals and other reactive species. Their reactions result in formation of amino acid radicals on the protein surface that often yield tryptophan and tyrosyl radicals or, in the presence of O2, protein peroxyl radicals and hydroperoxides. All these species may propagate damage to biomolecules. Low molecular weight antioxidants, such as ascorbate, urate, and glutathione, are part of the defense system and function by repairing damaged proteins. We briefly review the existing knowledge about protein and amino acid radicals and their repair by antioxidants, including results of our investigations. The main question addressed is whether the antioxidants ascorbate, urate, and glutathione are able to repair amino acid radicals in model compounds and in proteins in vitro by pulse radiolysis. We show that ascorbate and urate repair tryptophan and tyrosyl radicals efficiently and inhibit proton-coupled electron transfer from tyrosine residues to tryptophan radicals in a number of proteins. In contrast, repair by glutathione is much slower. Ascorbate also rapidly reduces the peroxyl radicals of the N-acetylamide derivatives of glycine, alanine, and proline, whereas glutathione reduces peroxyl radicals in lysozyme. In vivo urate, ascorbate, and glutathione may prevent biological damage or, at least, reduce its rate, because they: (a) repair tryptophan and tyrosyl radicals in proteins and (b) reduce protein peroxyl radicals to the corresponding protein hydroperoxides. Most likely, in vivo, ascorbate and glutathione do not inhibit the reaction of C-centered amino acid radicals with O2. Glutathione is less efficient that urate and ascorbate in repairing protein radicals; furthermore, the resulting glutathiyl radical is harmful. Ascorbate may be the more important repair agent in cells and tissues characterized by high ascorbate concentrations, such as the lens and brain; urate may be mainly responsible for repair in tissue compartments with higher urate concentrations, such as in plasma and saliva.
- protein radical
- protein repair