Reactive nitrogen species in the chemical biology of inflammation

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2004 Mar 1;423(1):12-22. doi: 10.1016/


The preponderance of epidemiological evidence now points to a strong association between chronic inflammation and cancers of several organs, including the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and lungs. The strongest evidence for a mechanistic link here involves the generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species by macrophages and neutrophils that respond to cytokines and other signaling processes arising at sites of inflammation. These reactive species cause oxidation, nitration, halogenation, and deamination of biomolecules of all types, including lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids, with the formation of toxic and mutagenic products. This review, in honor of Bruce Ames, will focus on recent advances in our understanding of the protein and DNA damage caused by reactive nitrogen species produced by macrophages and neutrophils, with emphasis on nitric oxide, nitrous anhydride, peroxynitrite, and nitrogen dioxide radical.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / metabolism
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / chemistry
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism*


  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Peroxynitrous Acid
  • Peroxidase
  • Oxygen