Yeast lacking superoxide dismutase(s) show elevated levels of "free iron" as measured by whole cell electron paramagnetic resonance

Chandra Srinivasan, Amir Liba, James A. Imlay, Joan Selverstone Valentine, Edith Butler Gralla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A current hypothesis explaining the toxicity of superoxide anion in vivo is that it oxidizes exposed [4Fe-4S] clusters in certain vulnerable enzymes causing release of iron and enzyme inactivation. The resulting increased levels of "free iron" catalyze deleterious oxidative reactions in the cell. In this study, we used low temperature Fe(III) electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to monitor iron status in whole cells of the unicellular eukaryote, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The experimental protocol involved treatment of the cells with desferrioxamine, a cell-permeant, Fe(III)-specific chelator, to promote oxidation of all of the "free iron" to the Fe(III) state wherein it is EPR-detectable. Using this method, a small amount of EPR-detectable iron was detected in the wild-type strain, whereas significantly elevated levels were found in strains lacking CuZn-superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD) (sod1Δ), Mn-SOD (sod2Δ), or both SODs, throughout their growth but particularly in stationary phase. The accumulation was suppressed by expression of wild-type human CuZn-SOD (in the sod1Δ mutant), by pmr1, a genetic suppressor of the sodΔ mutant phenotype (in the sod1Δsod2Δ double knockout strain), and by anaerobic growth. In wild-type cells, an increase in the EPR-detectable iron pool could be induced by treatment with paraquat, a redox-cycling drug that generates superoxide. Cells that were not pretreated with desferrioxamine had Fe(III) EPR signals that were equally as strong as those from treated cells, indicating that "free iron" accumulated in the ferric form in our strains in vivo. Our results indicate a relationship between superoxide stress and iron handling and support the above hypothesis for superoxide-related oxidative damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29187-29192
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 22 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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