Hypochlorite-induced oxidation of thiols: formation of thiyl radicals and the role of sulfenyl chlorides as intermediates

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Activated phagocytic cells generate hypochlorite (HOCl) via release of hydrogen peroxide and the enzyme myeloperoxidase. HOCl plays an important role in bacterial cell killing, but excessive or misplaced production of HOCI is also known to cause tissue damage. Studies have shown that low-molecular-weight thiols such as reduced glutathione (GSH), and sulfur-containing amino acids in proteins, are major targets for HOCl. Radicals have not generally been implicated as intermediates in thiol oxidation by HOCl, though there is considerable literature evidence for the involvement of radicals in the metal ion-, thermal- or UV light-catalysed decomposition of sulfenyl or sulfonyl chlorides which are postulated intermediates in thiol oxidation. In this study we show that thiyl radicals are generated on reaction of a number of low-molecular-weight thiols with HOCl. With sub-stoichiometric amounts of HOCl, relative to the thiol, thiyl radicals are the major species detected by EPR spin trapping. When the HOCl is present in excess over the thiol, additional radicals are detected with compounds which contain amine functions; these additional radicals are assigned to nitrogen-centered species. Evidence is presented for the involvement of sulfenyl chlorides (RSCl) in the formation of these radicals, and studies with an authentic sulfenyl chloride have demonstrated that this compound readily decomposes in thermal-, metal-ion- or light-catalysed reactions to give thiyl radicals. The formation of thiyl radicals on oxidation of thiols with HOCl appears to compete with non-radical reactions. The circumstances under which radical formation may be important are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFree Radical Research
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)719-29
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000

    Research areas

  • Cyclic N-Oxides, Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy, Free Radicals, Hypochlorous Acid, Oxidation-Reduction, Spin Labels, Sulfhydryl Compounds, Sulfur Compounds

ID: 138280419