Neutrophils kill bacteria by ingesting them into phagosomes where superoxide and cytoplasmic granule constituents, including myeloperoxidase, are released. Myeloperoxidase converts chloride and hydrogen peroxide to hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which is strongly microbicidal. However, the role of oxidants in killing and the species responsible are poorly understood and the subject of current debate. To assess what oxidative mechanisms are likely to operate in the narrow confines of the phagosome, we have used a kinetic model to examine the fate of superoxide and its interactions with myeloperoxidase. Known rate constants for reactions of myeloperoxidase have been used and substrate concentrations estimated from neutrophil morphology. In the model, superoxide is generated at several mm/s. Most react with myeloperoxidase, which is present at millimolar concentrations, and rapidly convert the enzyme to compound III. Compound III turnover by superoxide is essential to maintain enzyme activity. Superoxide stabilizes at approximately 25 microM and hydrogen peroxide in the low micromolar range. HOCl production is efficient if there is adequate chloride supply, but further knowledge on chloride concentrations and transport mechanisms is needed to assess whether this is the case. Low myeloperoxidase concentrations also limit HOCl production by allowing more hydrogen peroxide to escape from the phagosome. In the absence of myeloperoxidase, superoxide increases to >100 microM but hydrogen peroxide to only approximately 30 microM. Most of the HOCl reacts with released granule proteins before reaching the bacterium, and chloramine products may be effectors of its antimicrobial activity. Hydroxyl radicals should form only after all susceptible protein targets are consumed.
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