Vascular endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, macrophages, neutrophils, Kupffer cells and other diverse cell types generate superoxide (O2.-) and nitric oxide (.NO), which can react to form the potent oxidant peroxynitrite anion (ONOO-). Peroxynitrite reacted with luminol to yield chemiluminescence which was greatly enhanced by bicarbonate. The quantum chemiluminescence yield of the ONOO- reaction with luminol in bicarbonate was approx. 10(-3). Chemiluminescence was superoxide dismutase-inhibitable, indicating that O2.- was a key intermediate for chemiexcitation. O2.- appears to be formed secondarily to the reaction of a bicarbonate-peroxynitrite complex with luminol, yielding luminol radical and O2.-. Luminol radical reacts with O2.- to form the unstable luminol endoperoxide, which follows the light-emitting pathway. Neither .NO nor O2.- alone were capable of directly inducing significant luminol chemiluminescence in our assay systems. These results suggest that ONOO- can be a critical unrecognized mediator of cell-derived luminol chemiluminescence reported in previous studies. In addition, it is shown that bicarbonate can participate in secondary oxidation reactions after reacting with ONOO-.

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