Mitochondrial superoxide mediates labile iron level: Evidence from Mn-SOD-transgenic mice and heterozygous knockout mice and isolated rat liver mitochondria

Wissam H. Ibrahim, Hosam M. Habib, Hina Kamal, Daret K. St. Clair, Ching K. Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Superoxide is the main reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by aerobic cells primarily in mitochondria. It is also capable of producing other ROS and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). Moreover, superoxide has the potential to release iron from its protein complexes. Unbound or loosely bound cellular iron, known as labile iron, can catalyze the formation of the highly reactive hydroxyl radical. ROS/RNS can cause mitochondrial dysfunction and damage. Manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD) is the chief ROS-scavenging enzyme and thereby the primary antioxidant involved in protecting mitochondria from oxidative damage. To investigate whether mitochondrial superoxide mediates labile iron in vivo, the levels of labile iron were determined in the tissues of mice overexpressing Mn-SOD and heterozygous Mn-SOD-knockout mice. Furthermore, the effect of increased mitochondrial superoxide generation on labile iron levels was determined in isolated rat liver mitochondria exposed to various electron transport inhibitors. The results clearly showed that increased expression of Mn-SOD significantly lowered the levels of labile iron in heart, liver, kidney, and skeletal muscle, whereas decreased expression of Mn-SOD significantly increased the levels of labile iron in the same organs. In addition, the data showed that peroxidative damage to membrane lipids closely correlated with the levels of labile iron in various tissues and that altering the status of Mn-SOD did not alter the status of other antioxidant systems. Results also showed that increased ROS production in isolated liver mitochondria significantly increased the levels of mitochondrial labile iron. These findings constitute the first evidence suggesting that mitochondrial superoxide is capable of releasing iron from its protein complexes in vivo and that it could also release iron from protein complexes contained within the organelle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-149
Number of pages7
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Kentucky , the National Institutes of Health , and United Arab Emirates University grants .


  • Antioxidant status
  • Free radicals
  • Heterozygous
  • Labile iron
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Mitochondria
  • Mn-SOD-knockout mice
  • Mn-SOD-transgenic mice
  • Superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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