Transition metals potentiate paraquat toxicity

Ron Kohen*, Mordechai Chevion, G. Czapski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The involvement of transition metal ions in paraquat toxicity was studied in bacterial model system. We show that the addition of micromolar, or lower, concentrations of copper dramatically enhanced the rate of bacterial inactivation. In contrast, the addition of chelating agents totally eliminated the killing of E. coli. No inactivation was observed under anaerobic exposure to paraquat, both in the absence and presence of copper. However, in the presence of copper, the anaerobic addition of hydrogen peroxide resulted in complete restoration of inactivation as under aerobiosis. Paraquat either produces superoxide ions or directly reduces bound copper ions in a catalytic mode. The reduced cuprous complexes react with hydrogen peroxide to locally form hydroxyl radicals (OH) which are probably responsible for the deleterious effects. This study indicates the involvement of a site-specific metal-mediated Haber-Weiss mechanism in paraquat toxicity. It is in agreement with earlier observations that copper unusually enhance biological damage induced by either superoxide or ascorbate.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalFree Radical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported by a grant from the United States-Israel Foundation (BSF).


  • Chelators
  • Copper
  • Hydroxyl radical
  • Paraquat toxicity
  • Superoxide
  • Superoxide dismutase
  • Transition metal ions


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