Interactive enhancements of ascorbic acid and iron in hydroxyl radical generation in quinone redox cycling

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Sep 18;46(18):10302-9. doi: 10.1021/es301834r. Epub 2012 Aug 31.


Quinones are toxicological substances in inhalable particulate matter (PM). The mechanisms by which quinones cause hazardous effects can be complex. Quinones are highly active redox molecules that can go through a redox cycle with their semiquinone radicals, leading to formation of reactive oxygen species. Electron spin resonance spectra have been reported for semiquinone radicals in PM, indicating the importance of ascorbic acid and iron in quinone redox cycling. However, these findings are insufficient for understanding the toxicity associated with quinone exposure. Herein, we investigated the interactions among anthraquinone (AQ), ascorbic acid, and iron in hydroxyl radical (·OH) generation through the AQ redox cycling process in a physiological buffer. We measured ·OH concentration and analyzed the free radical process. Our results showed that AQ, ascorbic acid, and iron have synergistic effects on ·OH generation in quinone redox cycling; i.e., ascorbyl radical oxidized AQ to semiquinone radical and started the redox cycling, iron accelerated this oxidation and enhanced ·OH generation through Fenton reactions, while ascorbic acid and AQ could help iron to release from quartz surface and enhance its bioavailability. Our findings provide direct evidence for the redox cycling hypothesis about airborne particle surface quinone in lung fluid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthraquinones / chemistry*
  • Ascorbic Acid / chemistry*
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry*
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*


  • Anthraquinones
  • Particulate Matter
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid