Taking up the cudgels for the traditional reactive oxygen and nitrogen species detection assays and their use in the cardiovascular system

Redox Biol. 2017 Aug;12:35-49. doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2017.02.001. Epub 2017 Feb 7.


Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS such as H2O2, nitric oxide) confer redox regulation of essential cellular functions (e.g. differentiation, proliferation, migration, apoptosis), initiate and catalyze adaptive stress responses. In contrast, excessive formation of RONS caused by impaired break-down by cellular antioxidant systems and/or insufficient repair of the resulting oxidative damage of biomolecules may lead to appreciable impairment of cellular function and in the worst case to cell death, organ dysfunction and severe disease phenotypes of the entire organism. Therefore, the knowledge of the severity of oxidative stress and tissue specific localization is of great biological and clinical importance. However, at this level of investigation quantitative information may be enough. For the development of specific drugs, the cellular and subcellular localization of the sources of RONS or even the nature of the reactive species may be of great importance, and accordingly, more qualitative information is required. These two different philosophies currently compete with each other and their different needs (also reflected by different detection assays) often lead to controversial discussions within the redox research community. With the present review we want to shed some light on these different philosophies and needs (based on our personal views), but also to defend some of the traditional assays for the detection of RONS that work very well in our hands and to provide some guidelines how to use and interpret the results of these assays. We will also provide an overview on the "new assays" with a brief discussion on their strengths but also weaknesses and limitations.

Keywords: Dihydroethidium oxidative fluorescence microtopography; Fluorescence and chemiluminescence-based assays; L-012-enhanced chemiluminescence; Lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence; Oxidative stress; Redox signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • NADPH Oxidases