Sodium nitrite enhances generation of reactive oxygen species that decrease antioxidant power and inhibit plasma membrane redox system of human erythrocytes

Cell Biol Int. 2016 Aug;40(8):887-94. doi: 10.1002/cbin.10628. Epub 2016 Jun 6.


Nitrite/nitrate salts are used in fertilizers and as food preservatives. Human exposure to high levels of nitrite results in its uptake and subsequent entry into blood where it can interact with erythrocytes. We show that treatment of human erythrocytes with sodium nitrite (NaNO2 ) results in a dose-dependent increase in the production of reactive oxygen species. This was accompanied by a decrease in the antioxidant power which lowered the free radical quenching and metal-reducing ability. NaNO2 treatment also inhibited plasma membrane redox system (PMRS) of erythrocytes. These changes increase the susceptibility of erythrocytes to oxidative damage, decrease the antioxidant power of whole blood, and can be a major cause of nitrite-induced cellular toxicity.

Keywords: PMRS; antioxidant potential; erythrocytes; nitrite; oxidative stress; toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / drug effects
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / blood
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sodium Nitrite / blood
  • Sodium Nitrite / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sodium Nitrite