Oxygen radical mechanisms of brain injury following ischemia and reperfusion

R. J. Traystman, J. R. Kirsch, R. C. Koehler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

606 Scopus citations


This review addresses current understanding of oxygen radical mechanisms as they relate to the brain during ischemia and reperfusion. The mechanism for radical production remains speculative in large part because of the difficulty of measuring radical species in vivo. Breakdown of lipid membranes during ischemia leads to accumulation of free fatty acids. Decreased energy stores during ischemia result in the accumulation of adenine nucleotides. During reperfusion, metabolism of free fatty acids via the cyclooxygenase pathway and metabolism of adenine nucleotides via the xanthine oxidase pathway are the most likely sources of oxygen radicals. Although leukocytes have been found to accumulate in some models of ischemia and reperfusion, their mechanistic role remains in question. Therapeutic strategies aimed at decreasing brain injury have included administration of radical scavengers at the time of reperfusion. Efficacy of traditional oxygen radical scavengers such as superoxide dismutase and catalase may be limited by their inability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Lipid-soluble antioxidants appear more efficacious because of their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and because of their presence in membrane structures where peroxidative reactions can be halted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1195
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • cerebral ischemia
  • cerebral resuscitation
  • lipid peroxidation
  • mechanisms of cerebral ischemic damage
  • oxygen radical scavengers
  • superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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