Lipid peroxidation and mechanisms of toxicity

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1987;18(1):27-79. doi: 10.3109/10408448709089856.


Aerobic organisms by definition require oxygen, and the importance of iron in aerobic respiration has long been recognized, but despite their beneficial roles, these elements can pose a real threat to the organism. During oxygen reduction, reactive species such as O2-. and H2O2 are formed readily. Iron can combine with these species, or with molecular oxygen itself, to generate free radicals which will attack the polyunsaturated fatty acids of membrane lipids. This oxidative deterioration of membrane lipids is known as lipid peroxidation. To protect itself against this form of attack, the organism possesses several types of defense mechanisms. Under normal conditions, these defenses appear to offer adequate protection for cell membranes, but the possibility exists that certain foreign compounds may interfere with or even overwhelm these defenses, and herein could lie a general mechanism of toxicity. This possible cause of toxicity is discussed in relation to other suggested causes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Free Radicals
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxides / metabolism*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism


  • Free Radicals
  • Lipid Peroxides
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Iron
  • Glutathione