Xanthine oxidoreductase: a journey from purine metabolism to cardiovascular excitation-contraction coupling

Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2011 Sep;31(3):264-80. doi: 10.3109/07388551.2010.527823. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) is a ubiquitous complex cytosolic molybdoflavoprotein which controls the rate limiting step of purine catabolism by converting xanthine to uric acid. It is known that optimum concentrations of uric acid (UA) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are necessary for normal functioning of the body. The ability of XOR to perform detoxification reactions, and to synthesize UA and reactive oxygen species (ROS) makes it a versatile intra- and extra-cellular protective "housekeeping enzyme". It is also an important component of the innate immune system. The enzyme is a target of drugs against gout and hyperuricemia and the protein is of major interest as it is associated with ischemia reperfusion (I/R) injury, vascular disorders in diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, adipogenesis, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and many other disease conditions. Xanthine oxidoreductase in conjugation with antibodies has been shown to have an anti-tumor effect due to its ability to produce ROS, which in turn reduces the growth of cancer tissues. Apart from this, XOR in association with nitric oxide synthase also participates in myocardial excitation-contraction coupling. Although XOR was discovered over 100 years ago, its physiological and pathophysiological roles are still not clearly elucidated. In this review, various physiological and pathophysiological functional aspects of XOR and its association with various forms of cancer are discussed in detail.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Excitation Contraction Coupling
  • Humans
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Purines / metabolism*
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / chemistry*
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / deficiency
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Xanthine Oxidase / chemistry*


  • Purines
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase
  • Xanthine Oxidase