A major pathway of nitric oxide utilization in mitochondria is its conversion to peroxynitrite, a species involved in biomolecule damage via oxidation, hydroxylation and nitration reactions. In the present study the potential role of mitochondrial ubiquinol in protecting against peroxynitrite-mediated damage is examined and the requirements of the mitochondrial redox status that support this function of ubiquinol are established. (1) Absorption and EPR spectroscopy studies revealed that the reactions involved in the ubiquinol/peroxynitrite interaction were first-order in peroxynitrite and zero-order in ubiquinol, in agreement with the rate-limiting formation of a reactive intermediate formed during the isomerization of peroxynitrite to nitrate. Ubiquinol oxidation occurred in one-electron transfer steps as indicated by the formation of ubisemiquinone. (2) Peroxynitrite promoted, in a concentration-dependent manner, the formation of superoxide anion by mitochondrial membranes. (3) Ubiquinol protected against peroxynitrite-mediated nitration of tyrosine residues in albumin and mitochondrial membranes, as suggested by experimental models, entailing either addition of ubiquinol or expansion of the mitochondrial ubiquinol pool caused by selective inhibitors of complexes III and IV. (4) Increase in membrane-bound ubiquinol partially prevented the loss of mitochondrial respiratory function induced by peroxynitrite. These findings are analysed in terms of the redox transitions of ubiquinone linked to both nitrogen-centred radical scavenging and oxygen-centred radical production. It may be concluded that the reaction of mitochondrial ubiquinol with peroxynitrite is part of a complex regulatory mechanism with implications for mitochondrial function and integrity.

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