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Oxygen is instrumental for biological signalling: An overview

Hancock, John

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Control of cellular function is extremely complex, being reliant on a wide range of components. Several of these are small oxygen-based molecules. Although reactive compounds containing oxygen are usually harmful to cells when accumulated to relatively high concentrations, they are also instrumental in the control of the activity of a myriad of proteins, and control both the up-regulation and down-regulation of gene expression. The formation of one oxygen-based molecule, such as the superoxide anion, can lead to a cascade of downstream generation of others, such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and the hydroxyl radical (∙OH), each with their own reactivity and effect. Nitrogen-based signaling molecules also contain oxygen, and include nitric oxide (NO) and peroxynitrite, both instrumental amongst the suite of cell signaling components. These molecules do not act alone, but form part of a complex interplay of reactions, including with several sulfur-based compounds, such as glutathione and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Over accumu-lation of oxygen-based reactive compounds may alter the redox status of the cell and lead to programmed cell death, in processes referred to as oxidative stress, or nitrosative stress (for ni-trogen-based molecules). Here, an overview of the main oxygen-based molecules involved and the ramifications of their production is given.


Hancock, J. (2021). Oxygen is instrumental for biological signalling: An overview. Oxygen, 1(1), 3-15.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jul 7, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 12, 2021
Publication Date Sep 1, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 7, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 24, 2021
Journal Oxygen
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 3-15
Keywords carbon monoxide; hydrogen peroxide; hydroxyl radicals; hydrogen sulfide; NADPH oxidase; ni-tric oxide; peroxynitrite; redox; superoxide
Public URL
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