Biochemistry (Moscow)

, Volume 72, Issue 10, pp 1039–1046

The oxygenase-peroxidase theory of Bach and Chodat and its modern equivalents: Change and permanence in scientific thinking as shown by our understanding of the roles of water, peroxide, and oxygen in the functioning of redox enzymes


DOI: 10.1134/S0006297907100021

Cite this article as:
Nicholls, P. Biochemistry Moscow (2007) 72: 1039. doi:10.1134/S0006297907100021


Alexander Bach was both revolutionary politician and biochemist. His earliest significant publication, “Tsargolod” (“The Tsar of Hunger”), introduced Marxist thought to Russian workers. In exile for 30 years, he moved to study the dialectic of the oxidases. When his theory of oxidases as combinations of oxygenases and peroxidases was developed (circa 1900) the enzyme concept was not fully formulated, and the enzyme/substrate distinction not yet made. Peroxides however were then and remain now significant intermediates, when either free or bound, in oxidase catalyses. The aerobic dehydrogenase/peroxidase/catalase coupled systems which were studied slightly later clarified the Bach model and briefly became an oxidase paradigm. Identification of peroxidase as a metalloprotein, a key step in understanding oxidase and peroxidase mechanisms, postdated Bach’s major work. Currently we recognize catalytic organic peroxides in flavoprotein oxygenases; such organic peroxides are also involved in lipid oxidation and tryptophan radical decay. But most physiologically important peroxides are now known to be bound to transition metals (either Fe or Cu) and formed both directly and indirectly (from oxygen). The typical stable metalloprotein peroxide product is the ferryl state. When both peroxide oxidizing equivalents are retained the second equivalent is held as a protein or porphyrin radical. True metal peroxide complexes are unstable. But often water molecules mark the spot where the original peroxide decayed. The cytochrome c oxidase Fe-Cu center can react with either peroxide or oxygen to form the intermediate higher oxidation states P and F. In its resting state water molecules and hydroxyl ions can be seen marking the original location of the oxygen or peroxide molecule.

Key words

peroxidaseoxygenasecytochrome oxidaseheme proteinsoxygen intermediatesBach

Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesEssex UniversityColchesterU. K.