Oxygen metabolism and the toxic properties of phagocytes

Ann Intern Med. 1980 Sep;93(3):480-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-93-3-480.


The products of oxygen reduction (superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals) and excitation (singlet oxygen) have been implicated in the toxic properties of phagocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, and mononuclear phagocytes). Enzymes that potentiate (such as peroxidase) or limit (such as catalase, superoxide dismutase) the toxicity of these agents contribute to the complexity of the oxygen-dependent antimicrobial systems of phagocytes. These toxic systems are dormant when the phagocyte is at rest but are activated when the need arises and directed to the destruction of invading microorganisms and other foreign cells. Occasionally, the toxic systems are directed against normal host cells and in this way contribute to the pathogenesis of disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Bactericidal Activity*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Peroxidases / metabolism
  • Phagocytes / physiology*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Superoxides / metabolism


  • Superoxides
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Peroxidases
  • Peroxidase
  • Oxygen