Superoxide radicals react with peptide-derived tryptophan radicals with very high rate constants to give hydroperoxides as major products

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Oxidative damage is a common process in many biological systems and proteins are major targets for damage due to their high abundance and very high rate constants for reaction with many oxidants (both radicals and two-electron species). Tryptophan (Trp) residues on peptides and proteins are a major sink for a large range of biological oxidants as these side-chains have low radical reduction potentials. The resulting Trp-derived indolyl radicals (Trp) have long lifetimes in some circumstances due to their delocalized structures, and undergo only slow reaction with molecular oxygen, unlike most other biological radicals. In contrast, we have shown previously that Trp undergo rapid dimerization. In the current study, we show that Trp also undergo very fast reaction with superoxide radicals, O2•−, with k 1–2 × 109 M−1 s−1. These values do not alter dramatically with peptide structure, but the values of k correlate with overall peptide positive charge, consistent with positive electrostatic interactions. These reactions compete favourably with Trp dimerization and O2 addition, indicating that this may be a major fate in some circumstances. The Trp + O2•− reactions occur primarily by addition, rather than electron transfer, with this resulting in high yields of Trp-derived hydroperoxides. Subsequent degradation of these species, both stimulated and native decay, gives rise to N-formylkynurenine, kynurenine, alcohols and diols. These data indicate that reaction of O2•− with Trp should be considered as a major pathway to Trp degradation on peptides and proteins subjected to oxidative damage.Graphical abstractHighlightsTryptophan (Trp) residues are a major sink for oxidants on peptides and proteins.Trp radicals in peptides undergo fast reactions with O2•− (k ˜ 109 M−1 s−1).Trp hydroperoxides are major products of Trp + O2•− reactions in peptides.Hydroperoxide degradation gives N-formylkynurenine, kynurenine and alcohols.Hydroperoxide formation competes favourably with dimerization and O2 addition.

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