Ascorbate maintains a low plasma oxygen level

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 30;10(1):10659. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-67778-w.


In human blood, oxygen is mainly transported by red blood cells. Accordingly, the dissolved oxygen level in plasma is expected to be limited, although it has not been quantified yet. Here, by developing dedicated methods and tools, we determined that human plasma pO2 = 8.4 mmHg (1.1% O2). Oxygen solubility in plasma was believed to be similar to water. Here we reveal that plasma has an additional ascorbate-dependent oxygen-reduction activity. Plasma experimental oxygenation oxidizes ascorbate (49.5 μM in fresh plasma vs < 2 μM in oxidized plasma) and abolishes this capacity, which is restored by ascorbate supplementation. We confirmed these results in vivo, showing that the plasma pO2 is significantly higher in ascorbate-deficient guinea pigs (Ascorbateplasma < 2 μM), compared to control (Ascorbateplasma > 15 μM). Plasma low oxygen level preserves the integrity of oxidation-sensitive components such as ubiquinol. Circulating leucocytes are well adapted to these conditions, since the abundance of their mitochondrial network is limited. These results shed a new light on the importance of oxygen exposure on leucocyte biological study, in regards with the reducing conditions they encounter in vivo; but also, on the manipulation of blood products to improve their integrity and potentially improve transfusions' efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood*
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Lineage / physiology
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Guinea Pigs
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / blood
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Plasma / metabolism*
  • Solubility
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives
  • Ubiquinone / metabolism


  • Ubiquinone
  • ubiquinol
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Oxygen