Free Radicals in Biology: Oxidative Stress and the Effects of Ionizing Radiation

  • Riley P
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Abstract

The most important electron acceptor in the biosphere is molecular oxygen which, by virtue of its bi-radical nature, readily accepts unpaired electrons to give rise to a series of partially reduced species collectively known as reduced (or ‘reactive’) oxygen species (ROS). These include superoxide (O·-2), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (HO·) and peroxyl (ROO·) and alkoxyl (RO·) radicals which may be involved in the initiation and propagation of free radical chain reactions and which are potentially highly damaging to cells. Mechanisms have evolved to restrict and control such processes, partly by compartmentation, and partly by antioxidant defences such as chain-breaking antioxidant compounds capable forming stable free radicals (e.g. ascorbate, α-tocopherol) and the evolution of enzyme systems (e.g. superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidases) that diminish the intracellular concentration of the ROS. Although some ROS perform useful functions, the production of ROS exceeding the ability of th...

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  • P.A. Riley

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