The cellular and molecular origin of reactive oxygen species generation during myocardial ischemia and reperfusion

Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Feb;133(2):230-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Nov 27.


Myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury is an important cause of impaired heart function in the early postoperative period subsequent to cardiac surgery. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation increases during both ischemia and reperfusion and it plays a central role in the pathophysiology of intraoperative myocardial injury. Unfortunately, the cellular source of these ROS during ischemia and reperfusion is often poorly defined. Similarly, individual ROS members tend to be grouped together as free radicals with a uniform reactivity towards biomolecules and with deleterious effects collectively ascribed under the vague umbrella of oxidative stress. This review aims to clarify the identity, origin, and progression of ROS during myocardial ischemia and reperfusion. Additionally, this review aims to describe the biochemical reactions and cellular processes that are initiated by specific ROS that work in concert to ultimately yield the clinical manifestations of myocardial ischemia-reperfusion. Lastly, this review provides an overview of several key cardioprotective strategies that target myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury from the perspective of ROS generation. This overview is illustrated with example clinical studies that have attempted to translate these strategies to reduce the severity of ischemia-reperfusion injury during coronary artery bypass grafting surgery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species