Eosinophil peroxidase is a haem enzyme of eosinophils that is implicated in oxidative tissue injury in asthma. It uses hydrogen peroxide to oxidize thiocyanate and bromide to their respective hypohalous acids. Nitrite is also a substrate for eosinophil peroxidase. We have investigated the mechanisms by which the enzyme oxidizes nitrite. Nitrite was very effective at inhibiting hypothiocyanous acid (‘cyanosulphenic acid’) and hypobromous acid production. Spectral studies showed that nitrite reduced the enzyme to its compound II form, which is a redox intermediate containing FeIV in the haem active site. Compound II does not oxidize thiocyanate or bromide. These results demonstrate that nitrite is readily oxidized by compound I, which contains FeV at the active site. However, it reacts more slowly with compound II. The observed rate constant for reduction of compound II by nitrite was determined to be 5.6×103 M−1·s−1. Eosinophils were at least 4-fold more effective at promoting nitration of a heptapeptide than neutrophils. This result is explained by our finding that nitrite reacts 10-fold faster with compound II of eosinophil peroxidase than with the analogous redox intermediate of myeloperoxidase. Nitration by eosinophils was increased 3-fold by superoxide dismutase, which indicates that superoxide interferes with nitration. We propose that at sites of eosinophilic inflammation, low concentrations of nitrite will retard oxidant production by eosinophil peroxidase, whereas at higher concentrations nitrogen dioxide will be a major oxidant formed by these cells. The efficiency of protein nitration will be decreased by the diffusion-controlled reaction of superoxide with nitrogen dioxide.

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