Though linked to aging and cancer, reactive oxygen species plays another role
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are normally produced as a product of metabolism, and, as their name implies, they are highly reactive with surrounding biological components. The ability of ROS to damage DNA and other critical molecules underlies their reputation for causing deleterious cellular effects and their association with aging, carcinogenesis, and atherosclerosis. However, in an unanticipated discovery suggesting that ROS may play important positive roles in development, researchers have found that the production of ROS by a particular enzyme is essential for inner ear development and for the ability to properly maintain balance.
The work is reported in Current Biology by a team of researchers, including Peter Kiss and Botond Banfi of the University of Iowa.
A biologically constructive function for ROS in development was unanticipated. Even a previously known beneficial role for ROS seems to be intimately linked to toxicity: White blood cells generate ROS by an NADPH oxidase enzyme to kill invading bacteria. In recent years, evidence has been accumulating that other NADPH oxidases, similar to that of white blood cells, are widespread in the body, but their function remains largely obscure.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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