Structure and function of xanthine oxidoreductase: where are we now?

Free Radic Biol Med. 2002 Sep 15;33(6):774-97. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(02)00956-5.


Xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) is a complex molybdoflavoenzyme, present in milk and many other tissues, which has been studied for over 100 years. While it is generally recognized as a key enzyme in purine catabolism, its structural complexity and specialized tissue distribution suggest other functions that have never been fully identified. The publication, just over 20 years ago, of a hypothesis implicating XOR in ischemia-reperfusion injury focused research attention on the enzyme and its ability to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS). Since that time a great deal more information has been obtained concerning the tissue distribution, structure, and enzymology of XOR, particularly the human enzyme. XOR is subject to both pre- and post-translational control by a range of mechanisms in response to hormones, cytokines, and oxygen tension. Of special interest has been the finding that XOR can catalyze the reduction of nitrates and nitrites to nitric oxide (NO), acting as a source of both NO and peroxynitrite. The concept of a widely distributed and highly regulated enzyme capable of generating both ROS and NO is intriguing in both physiological and pathological contexts. The details of these recent findings, their pathophysiological implications, and the requirements for future research are addressed in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Reperfusion Injury
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Xanthine Oxidase / blood
  • Xanthine Oxidase / chemistry*
  • Xanthine Oxidase / physiology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Xanthine Oxidase