Mitochondrial aconitase (m-aconitase) contains a [4Fe-4S](2+) cluster in its active site that catalyzes the stereospecific dehydration-rehydration of citrate to isocitrate in the Krebs cycle. It has been proposed that the [4Fe-4S](2+) aconitase is oxidized by superoxide, generating the inactive [3Fe-4S](1+) aconitase. In this reaction, the likely products are iron(II) and hydrogen peroxide. Consequently, the inactivation of m-aconitase by superoxide may increase the formation of hydroxyl radical ((*)OH) through the Fenton reaction in mitochondria. In this work, evidence for the generation of (*)OH from the reaction of m-aconitase with superoxide is provided using ESR spin trapping experiments with 5-diethoxyphosphoryl-5-methyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide and alpha-phenyl-N-tert-butylnitrone. Formation of free ( small middle dot)OH was verified with the (*)OH scavenger Me(2)SO, which forms methyl radical upon reacting with (*)OH. The addition of Me(2)SO to incubation mixtures containing m-aconitase and xanthine/xanthine oxidase yielded methyl radical, which was detected by ESR spin trapping. Methyl radical formation was further confirmed using [(13)C]Me(2)SO. Parallel low temperature ESR experiments demonstrated that the generation of the [3Fe-4S](1+) cluster increased with increasing additions of superoxide to m-aconitase. This reaction was reversible, as >90% of the initial aconitase activity was recovered upon treatment with glutathione and iron(II). This mechanism presents a scenario in which (*)OH may be continuously generated in the mitochondria.
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