The ability of intact human red cells to scavenge extracellularly generated H2O2 and O2-, and to prevent formation of hydroxyl radicals and hypochlorous acid has been examined. Red cells inhibited oxidation of ferrocytochrome c by H2O2. Cells treated with aminotriazole no longer inhibited, indicating that protection was almost entirely due to intracellular catalase. Contribution by the GSH system was slight, and apparent only with low H2O2 concentrations when catalase was inhibited by aminotriazole. The cells were about a quarter as efficient at inhibiting cytochrome c oxidation as an equivalent concentration of purified catalase. No inhibition of O2(-)-dependent reduction of ferricytochrome c or nitroblue tetrazolium was observed, although extracted red cell superoxide dismutase inhibited nitroblue tetrazolium reduction at one fortieth the concentration of that in the cells. Red cells efficiently inhibited deoxyribose oxidation by hydroxyl radicals generated from H2O2, O2- and Fe(EDTA), and myeloperoxidase-dependent oxidation of methionine to methionine sulfoxide by stimulated neutrophils. Most of the red cell inhibition of hydroxyl radical production, and all the inhibition of methionine oxidation, was prevented by blocking intracellular catalase with aminotriazole. Thus red cells are able to efficiently scavenge H2O2, but not O2-, produced in their environment, and to inhibit formation of hydroxyl radicals and hypochlorous acid. They may therefore have an important role in extracellular antioxidant defense.
C C Winterbourn, A Stern