Generation of superoxide anion by mitochondria and impairment of their functions during anoxia and reoxygenation in vitro

Free Radic Biol Med. 1998 Dec;25(9):1066-74. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(98)00148-8.


A small portion of the oxygen consumed by aerobic cells is converted to superoxide anion at the level of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. If produced in excess, this harmful radical is considered to impair cellular structures and functions. Damage at the level of mitochondria have been reported after ischemia and reperfusion of organs. However, the complexity of the in vivo system prevents from understanding and describing precise mechanisms and locations of mitochondrial impairment. An in vitro model of isolated-mitochondria anoxia-reoxygenation is used to investigate superoxide anion generation together with specific damage at the level of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Superoxide anion is detected by electron paramagnetic resonance spin trapping with POBN-ethanol. Mitochondrial respiratory parameters are calculated from oxygen consumption traces recorded with a Clark electrode. Respiring mitochondria produce superoxide anion in unstressed conditions, however, the production is raised during postanoxic reoxygenation. Several respiratory parameters are impaired after reoxygenation, as shown by decreases of phosphorylating and uncoupled respiration rates and of ADP/O ratio and by increase of resting respiration. Partial protection of mitochondrial function by POBN suggests that functional damage is related and secondary to superoxide anion production by the mitochondria in vitro.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Diphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone / pharmacology
  • Cell Respiration
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism*
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Rotenone / pharmacology
  • Spin Labels
  • Succinic Acid / metabolism
  • Superoxides / adverse effects
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Spin Labels
  • Rotenone
  • NAD
  • Superoxides
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Succinic Acid
  • Oxygen