Thiyl radicals in biosystems: effects on lipid structures and metabolisms

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005 Apr;62(7-8):834-47. doi: 10.1007/s00018-005-4475-y.


Thiyl radicals are intermediates of enzyme- and radical-driven biochemical processes, and their potential as reactive species in the biological environment has been somehow underestimated. From organic chemistry, however, it is known that thiyl radicals isomerize the double bonds of unsaturated fatty acids to a mixture with very dominating trans isomers. Recently, this reaction has been particularly studied for biosystems, focusing on the effect of thiyl radicals on the natural all-cis double bonds of unsaturated phospholipids, which undergo a conversion to the unnatural trans form. In this paper we report briefly the role of thiyl radicals in biosystems, describe the main features of the radical-induced cis-trans isomerization process under both in vitro and in vivo conditions, and reflect on some consequences for membrane structures, lipid metabolism and enzymatic reactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membranes / chemistry
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / chemistry*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Free Radicals
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds