Redox cycling compounds generate H2O2 in HTS buffers containing strong reducing reagents--real hits or promiscuous artifacts?

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2011 Feb;15(1):174-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2010.10.022. Epub 2010 Nov 11.


Redox cycling compounds (RCCs) generate μM concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) in the presence of strong reducing agents, common buffer components used to maintain the catalytic activity and/or folding of target proteins for high throughput screening (HTS) assays. H(2)O(2) generated by RCCs can indirectly inhibit the catalytic activity of proteins by oxidizing accessible cysteine, tryptophan, methionine, histidine, or selenocysteine residues, and indeed several important classes of protein targets are susceptible to H(2)O(2)-mediated inactivation; protein tyrosine phosphatases, cysteine proteases, and metalloenzymes. The main sources of H(2)O(2) in cells are the Nox enzyme/SOD systems, peroxisome metabolism, and the autoxidation of reactive chemicals by enzyme mediated redox cycling at both the microsomal and mitochondrial sites of electron transport. Given the role of H(2)O(2) as a second messenger involved in the regulation of many signaling pathways it is hardly surprising that compounds that can generate intracellular H(2)O(2) by enzyme mediated redox cycling would have pleiotropic effects. RCCs can therefore have serious negative consequences for the probe and/or lead generation process: primary HTS assay hit rates may be inflated by RCC false positives; crucial resources will be diverted to develop and implement follow up assays to distinguish RCCs from real hits; and screening databases will become annotated with the promiscuous activity of RCCs. In an attempt to mitigate the serious impact of RCCs on probe and lead generation, two groups have independently developed assays to indentify RCCs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Buffers
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Signal Transduction


  • Buffers
  • Hydrogen Peroxide