Cellular Oxygen Utilization and Hypoxia: Interaction of Dithiols with Cellular Electron Transfer Systems

  • John E. Biaglow
  • Birgit Jacobson
  • Marie E. Varnes
  • Kathyrn D. Held
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 200)


DL-Dithiothreitol (DTT) better known as Cleland’s reagent, and dithioerythritol (DTE) are isomers of 2,3-dihydroxy-l-4-dithiobutane which were originally used by Cleland (1964) as antioxidants (1). They have found wide spread use in chemistry, biochemistry, biology and medicine, principally as reductants for disulfides as well as protectors of sulfhydryls against oxidants. DTT has found application as a chemical that protects microbes (2) and mammalian cells (3,4) against the damaging effects of ionizing radiation. It is this latter property that has been of interest to us. The radioprotection conferred upon cells by DTT may be due to its stimulation of cellular oxygen utilization. Increases in oxygen consumption may produce hypoxic cells in multicellular systems (5) as well as create intracellular hypoxia (4,5). The lowering of oxygen concentration results in protection against radiation damage due to the well known oxygen effect (6). In addition to effects on oxygen utilization, dithiols also react spontaneously with oxygen to produce superoxide and peroxide. This reaction is enhanced in the presence of copper and iron that are normally found in the growth medium of cultured cells. Depletion of oxygen by this spontaneous reaction will also cause hypoxia and radiation protection (7).


Oxygen Consumption Lipoic Acid Pyridine Nucleotide Oxygen Utilization Ehrlich Ascites Tumor Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Biaglow
  • Birgit Jacobson
  • Marie E. Varnes
    • 1
  • Kathyrn D. Held
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Division of Biochemical OncologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiation Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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