Metabolic activation of sulfur mustard leads to oxygen free radical formation

Research Division, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5400, USA.
Free Radical Biology and Medicine (Impact Factor: 5.74). 12/2011; 52(4):811-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.11.031
Source: PubMed


We recently published electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spin trapping results that demonstrated the enzymatic reduction of sulfur mustard sulfonium ions to carbon-based free radicals using an in vitro system containing sulfur mustard, cytochrome P450 reductase, NADPH, and the spin trap α-(4-pyridyl-1-oxide)-N-tert-butylnitrone (4-POBN) in buffer (A.A. Brimfield et al., 2009, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 234:128-134). Carbon-based radicals have been shown to reduce molecular oxygen to form superoxide and, subsequently, peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals. In some cases, such as with the herbicide paraquat, a cyclic redox system results, leading to magnified oxygen free radical concentration and sustained tissue damage. Low mustard carbon radical concentrations recorded by EPR in our in vitro system, despite a robust (4.0mM) sulfur mustard starting concentration, led us to believe a similar oxygen reduction and redox cycling process might be involved with sulfur mustard. A comparison of the rate of mustard radical-POBN adduct formation in our in vitro system by EPR at atmospheric and reduced oxygen levels indicated a sixfold increase in 4-POBN adduct formation (0.5 to 3.0 μM) at the reduced oxygen concentration. That result suggested competition between oxygen and POBN for the available carbon-based mustard radicals. In parallel experiments we found that the oxygen radical-specific spin trap 5-tert-butoxycarbonyl-5-methylpyrroline-N-oxide (BMPO) detected peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals directly when it was used in place of POBN in the in vitro system. Presumably these radicals originated from O(2) reduced by carbon-based mustard radicals. We also showed that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-BMPO EPR signals were reduced or eliminated when mustard carbon radical production was impeded by systematically removing system components, indicating that carbon radicals were a necessary precursor to ROS production. ROS EPR signals were completely eliminated when superoxide dismutase and catalase were included in the complete in vitro enzymatic system, providing additional proof of oxygen radical participation. The redox cycling hypothesis was supported by density functional theory calculations and frontier molecular orbital analysis.

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