Direct superoxide anion scavenging by a disodium disuccinate astaxanthin derivative: Relative efficacy of individual stereoisomers versus the statistical mixture of stereoisomers by electron paramagnetic resonance imaging

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Aug 1;307(3):704-12. doi: 10.1016/s0006-291x(03)01248-8.


Carotenoids are a related group of greater than 600 natural compounds, irrespective of geometric- and stereoisomers, with demonstrated antioxidant efficacy. The carotenoids are broadly divided into "carotenes," or non-oxygen substituted hydrocarbon carotenoids, and "xanthophylls," oxygen-substituted carotenoids. The natural compounds are excellent singlet oxygen quenchers as well as lipid peroxidation chain-breakers; this dual antioxidant capacity is generally attributed to the activity of the polyene chain, and increases with the number of conjugated double bonds along the polyene chain length. However, the poor aqueous solubility of most carotenes and the vast majority of xanthophylls limits their use as aqueous-phase singlet oxygen quenchers and direct radical scavengers. A variety of introduction vehicles (e.g., organic solvents, cyclodextrins) have been used to introduce the insoluble carotenoids into aqueous test systems. Hawaii Biotech, Inc. (HBI) successfully synthesized a novel carotenoid derivative, the disodium disuccinate derivative of astaxanthin (3,3(')-dihydroxy-beta,beta-carotene-4,4(')-dione) in all-trans (all-E) form. The novel derivative is a water-dispersible symmetric chiral molecule with two chiral centers, yielding four stereoisomeric forms: 3R,3(')R and 3S,3(')S (enantiomers), and the diastereomeric meso forms (3R,3(')S and 3(')R,3S). The individual stereoisomers were synthesized at high purity (>90% by HPLC) and compared directly for efficacy with the statistical mixture of stereoisomers obtained from the synthesis from the commercial source of astaxanthin (1:2:1 ratio of 3S,3(')S, meso, and 3R,3(')R, respectively). Direct scavenging of superoxide anion was evaluated in a standard in vitro isolated human neutrophil assay by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) imaging, employing the spin-trap DEPMPO. Each novel derivative was tested in pure aqueous formulation and in ethanolic formulation shown to completely disaggregate the compounds in solution. In each case, the ethanolic formulation was a more potent scavenging vehicle. No significant differences in scavenging efficiency were noted among the individual stereoisomers and the statistical mixture of stereoisomers, suggesting that the polyene chain alone was responsible for superoxide scavenging. Dose-ranging revealed that the statistical mixture of stereoisomers of the novel derivative, at millimolar (mM) concentrations, could nearly completely eliminate the superoxide anion signal generated in the activated human neutrophil assay. All ethanolic formulations of the novel derivatives exhibited increased scavenging efficiency over equimolar concentrations of non-esterified astaxanthin delivered in a dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) vehicle. These novel compounds will likely find utility in applications requiring aqueous delivery of a highly potent direct radical scavenger.

MeSH terms

  • Cyclic N-Oxides / chemistry
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Free Radical Scavengers / chemistry*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Spin Labels
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Succinates / chemistry*
  • Succinates / pharmacology*
  • Superoxides / metabolism*
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / chemistry*
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology*


  • Cyclic N-Oxides
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Spin Labels
  • Succinates
  • Xanthophylls
  • succinic acid mono-(4-(18-(4-(3-carboxypropionyloxy)-2,6,6-trimethyl-3-oxocyclohex-1-enyl)-3,7,12,16-tetramethyloctadeca-1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17-nonaenyl)-3,5,5-trimethyl-2-oxocyclohex-3-enyl) ester
  • beta Carotene
  • Superoxides
  • 5-diethoxyphosphoryl-5-methyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide
  • astaxanthine