Oxidation of hydroxylamines to nitroxide spin labels in living cells

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1988 Jul 29;970(3):270-7. doi: 10.1016/0167-4889(88)90126-7.


In the presence of oxygen, cells can oxidize hydroxylamines, which are the products of the reduction of nitroxides in cells, back to nitroxides. Lipid-soluble hydroxylamines are oxidized much more rapidly than water-soluble ones, and most of this oxidation is inactivated by heat or trichloroacetic acid, indicating that the principal mechanism is enzyme-linked. The rates of oxidation of some lipophilic hydroxylamines are comparable to the rates of reduction of the corresponding nitroxides. Hydroxylamines formed by reduction of aqueous soluble nitroxides are not oxidized by cells, except for slight oxidation of some pyrrolidine derivatives. The latter is due to autoxidation. The kinetics of oxidation of reduced lipid-soluble nitroxides are all first-order with respect to hydroxylamines, regardless of the position of the nitroxide group along the carbon backbone, indicating that the oxidation occurs within the membrane. The oxidation of hydroxylamines in cells in inhibited by cyanide but not by antimycin A or SKF-525A. We also describe an effective method to oxidize hydroxylamines and follow this reaction; the method is based on the use of perdeuterated [15N]Tempone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affinity Labels / metabolism*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Hydroxylamines / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mice
  • Nitrous Oxide / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Affinity Labels
  • Hydroxylamines
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Nitrous Oxide