Thiyl radicals in biosystems: effects on lipid structures and metabolisms


Thiyl radicals are intermediates of enzyme- and radical-driven biochemical processes, and their potential as reactive species in the biological environment has been somehow underestimated. From organic chemistry, however, it is known that thiyl radicals isomerize the double bonds of unsaturated fatty acids to a mixture with very dominating trans isomers. Recently, this reaction has been particularly studied for biosystems, focusing on the effect of thiyl radicals on the natural all-cis double bonds of unsaturated phospholipids, which undergo a conversion to the unnatural trans form. In this paper we report briefly the role of thiyl radicals in biosystems, describe the main features of the radical-induced cis-trans isomerization process under both in vitro and in vivo conditions, and reflect on some consequences for membrane structures, lipid metabolism and enzymatic reactions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to C. Ferreri or O. Brede.

Additional information

Received 29 October 2004; received after revision 3 December 2004; accepted 4 January 2005

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ferreri, C., Kratzsch, S., Landi, L. et al. Thiyl radicals in biosystems: effects on lipid structures and metabolisms. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 62, 834–847 (2005).

Download citation

Key words.

  • Thiyl radicals
  • cis-trans isomerization
  • unsaturated fatty acids
  • trans lipids
  • lipid metabolism
  • membrane phospholipid