We report herein that oxidation of a mitochondria-specific phospholipid tetralinoleoyl cardiolipin (L(4)CL) by cytochrome c and H(2)O(2) leads to the formation of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (4-HNE) via a novel chemical mechanism that involves cross-chain peroxyl radical addition and decomposition. As one of the most bioactive lipid electrophiles, 4-HNE possesses diverse biological activities ranging from modulation of multiple signal transduction pathways to the induction of intrinsic apoptosis. However, where and how 4-HNE is formed in vivo are much less understood. Recently a novel chemical mechanism has been proposed that involves intermolecular dimerization of fatty acids by peroxyl bond formation; but the biological relevance of this mechanism is unknown because a majority of the fatty acids are esterified in phospholipids in the cellular membrane. We hypothesize that oxidation of cardiolipins, especially L(4)CL, may lead to the formation of 4-HNE via this novel mechanism. We employed L(4)CL and dilinoleoylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC) as model compounds to test this hypothesis. Indeed, in experiments designed to assess the intramolecular mechanism, more 4-HNE is formed from L(4)CL and DLPC oxidation than 1-palmitoyl-2-linoleoylphosphatydylcholine. The key products and intermediates that are consistent with this proposed mechanism of 4-HNE formation have been identified using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Identical products from cardiolipin oxidation were identified in vivo in rat liver tissue after carbon tetrachloride treatment. Our studies provide the first evidence in vitro and in vivo for the formation 4-HNE from cardiolipin oxidation via cross-chain peroxyl radical addition and decomposition, which may have implications in apoptosis and other biological activities of 4-HNE.
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