Spin traps inhibit formation of hydrogen peroxide via the dismutation of superoxide: implications for spin trapping the hydroxyl free radical

Bradley E. Britigan, Tedmund L. Roeder, Garry R. Buettner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


To enhance the sensitivity of EPR spin trapping for radicals of limited reactivity, high concentrations (10-100 mM) of spin traps are routinely used. We noted that in contrast to results with other hydroxyl radical detection systems, superoxide dismutase (SOD) often increased the amount of hydroxyl radical-derived spin adducts of 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO) produced by the reaction of hypoxanthine, xanthine oxidase and iron. One possible explanation for these results is that high DMPO concentrations (∼ 100 mM) inhibit dismutation of superoxide (O2-) to hydrigen peroxide (H2O2). Therefore, we examined the effect of DMPO on O2- dismutation to H2O2. Lumazine ± 100 mM DMPO was placed in a Clark oxygen electrode following which xanthine oxidase was added. The amount of H2O2 formed in this reaction was determined by introducing catalase and measuring the amount of dioxygen regenerated. Lumazine was used as the xanthine oxidase substrate to increase the percentage of H2O2 generated via O2- dismutation as compared to direct divalent O2 reduction. In the presence of 100 mM DMPO, H2O2 generation decreased 43%. DMPO did not scavenge H2O2 nor alter the rate of O2- production. The effect of DMPO was concentration-dependent with inhibition of H2O2 production observed at [DMPO] > 10 mM. Inhibition of H2O2 production of DMPO was not observed if SOD was present or if the rate of O2- formation increased. The spin trap 2-methyl-2-nitroso-propane (MNP, 10 mM) also inhibited H2O2 formation (81%). However, α-phenyl-N-tert-butylnitrone (PBN, 10 mM), 3,3,5,5 tetramethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (M4PO, 100 mM), α-(4-pyridyl-1-oxide)-N-tert-butylnitrone (4-POBN, 100 mM) had no effect. These data suggest that in experimental systems in which the rate of O2- generation is low, formation of H2O2 and thus other H2O2-derived species (e.g., OH) may be inhibited by commonly used concentrations of some spin traps. Thus, under some experimental conditions spin traps may potentially prevent production of the very free radical species they are being used to detect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalBBA - General Subjects
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 31 1991


  • 5,5-Dimethylpyrroline N-oxide
  • EPR
  • Free radical
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hydroxyl radical
  • Spin trapping
  • Superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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