Oxidative Damage of Biomolecules by the Environmental Pollutants NO2• and NO3•

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftReviewForskningfagfællebedømt

  • Luke F. Gamon
  • Uta Wille
Air pollution is responsible for the premature death of about 7 million people every year. Ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2•) are the key gaseous pollutants in the troposphere, which predominantly result from combustion processes. Their inhalation leads to reactions with constituents in the airway surface fluids (ASF) of the respiratory tract and/or lungs. ASF contain small molecular-weight antioxidants, which protect the underlying epithelial cells against oxidative damage. When this defense system is overwhelmed, proteins and lipids present on cell surfaces or within the ASF become vulnerable to attack. The resulting highly reactive protein and lipid oxidation products could subsequently damage the epithelial cells through secondary reactions, thereby causing inflammation. While reactions of NO2• with biological molecules are considered to proceed through radical pathways, the biological effect of O3 is attributed to its high reactivity with π systems. Because O3 and NO2• always coexist in the polluted ambient atmosphere, synergistic effects resulting from in situ formed strongly oxidizing nitrate radicals (NO3•) may also require consideration. For example, in vitro product studies revealed that phenylalanine, which is inert not only to oxidants produced through biochemical processes, but also to NO2• or O3 in isolation, is damaged by NO3•. The reaction is initiated by oxidation of the aromatic ring and, depending on the availability of NO2•, leads to formation of nitrophenylalanine or β-nitrooxyphenylalanine, which could serve as marker for NO3•-induced oxidative damage in peptides. More easily oxidizable aromatic amino acids are directly attacked by NO2• and are converted to the same products independent of whether O3 is also present. Remarkably, NO2•-induced oxidative damage in peptides occurs not only through the well-established radical oxidation of peptide side chains, but also through an unprecedented fragmentation/rearrangement of the peptide backbone. This process is initiated by a nonradical N-nitrosation of a peptide bond involving the dimer of NO2•, i.e., N2O4, and contracts the peptide chain in the N → C direction by expelling one amino acid residue with simultaneous fusion of the remaining molecular termini, thereby forming a new peptide bond. This peptide cleavage could potentially be highly relevant for peptide segments with “nonvulnerable” side chains closer to the terminus that are not tied up in complex secondary and tertiary structures and therefore accessible for environmental oxidants. Likewise, NO2• reacts with cholesterol at the C═C moiety through an ionic mechanism, which leads to formation of 6-nitrocholesterol in the presence of moisture. Contrary to common belief, this clearly shows that ionic chemistry, in particular nitrosation reactions by intermediately formed NO+, requires consideration when assessing NO2• toxicity. This conclusion is supported by recent work by Colussi et al. (Enami, S.; Hoffmann, M. R.; Colussi, A. J. Absorption of inhaled NO2. J. Phys. Chem. B. 2009, 113, 7977–7981), who showed that anions in the airway surfaces fluids mediate NO2• absorption by catalyzing its hydrolytic disproportionation into NO2–/HNO2 and NO3–. These findings could be the key to our understanding why NO2•, despite its low water solubility, has such pronounced biological effects in vivo.
TidsskriftAccounts of Chemical Research
Udgave nummer10
Sider (fra-til)2136-2145
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2016
Eksternt udgivetJa

ID: 194816022