Mitochondria from females exhibit higher antioxidant gene expression and lower oxidative damage than males

Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Mar 1;34(5):546-52. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(02)01356-4.


We have investigated the differential mitochondrial oxidative stress between males and females to understand the molecular mechanisms enabling females to live longer than males. Mitochondria are a major source of free radicals in cells. Those from female rats generate half the amount of peroxides than those of males. This does not occur in ovariectomized animals. Estrogen replacement therapy prevents the effect of ovariectomy. Mitochondria from females have higher levels of reduced glutathione than those from males. Those from ovariectomized rats have similar levels to males, and estrogen therapy prevents the fall in glutathione levels that occurs in ovariectomized animals. Oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA in males is 4-fold higher than that in females. This is due to higher expression and activities of Mn-superoxide dismutase and of glutathione peroxidase in females, which behave as double transgenics overexpressing superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, conferring protection against free-radical-mediated damage in aging. Moreover, 16S rRNA expression, which decreases significantly with aging, is four times higher in mitochondria from females than in those from males of the same chronological age. The facts reported here provide molecular evidence to explain the different life span in males and females.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / genetics*
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Liver / enzymology*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress* / drug effects
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Peroxides / metabolism
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Estrogens
  • Peroxides
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • RNA
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione
  • Oxygen