Tissue oxidases, especially xanthine oxidase, have been proposed as primary sources of toxic oxygen radicals in many experimental models of disease states. Among these, ischemia-reperfusion injury may be of the greatest clinical interest. In this paper we propose the use of methylene blue as a means of suppressing the production of superoxide radicals, O2, by acting as an alternative electron acceptor for xanthine oxidase. Previous work has indicated that methylene blue accepts electrons from xanthine oxidase at the iron-sulfur center. Initial experiments in our laboratory demonstrated that (1) pairs of electrons from each enzymatic oxidation are transferred to methylene blue, (2) the reduction of methylene blue can be achieved by model iron-sulfur centers, similar to the iron-sulfur center of xanthine oxidase, (3) reduced methylene blue auto-oxidizes to produce H2O2 directly, rather than O2, and (4) methylene blue is effective at non-toxic levels (2-5 mg/kg) in preventing free radical damage to liver and kidney tissues in an in vitro model of ischemia and reoxygenation. Accordingly, we propose that methylene blue may represent a new class of antioxidant drugs that competitively inhibit reduction of molecular oxygen to superoxide by acting as alternative electron acceptors for tissue oxidases. We have termed these agents “parasitic” electron acceptors.


This is the author accepted manuscript of Salaris, S.C., Babbs, C.F., Voorhees, W.D., Methylene blue as an inhibitor of superoxide generation by xanthine oxidase-a potential new drug for the attenuation of ischemia/reperfusion injury Biochemical Pharmacology 42, 499506, 1991. Copyright Elsevier, it is made available here CC-BY-NC-ND, and the version of record is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0006-2952(91)90311-R.


class, drug development, hydrogen peroxide, new, novel, oxidative stress, reactive oxygen species, therapy

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