The Role of Free and Bound Water in Irradiation Preservation: Free Radical Damage as a Function of the Physical State of Watera


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    This work was supported by the Atomic Energy Commission Contract No. AT (45-1) 1730.

  • Contribution No. 176, College of Fisheries, University of Washington.


English sole fillets previously equilibrated with aqueous 0.1% cysteine were dehydrated by three methods to moisture levels ranging from 2 to 72%. Model systems using cellulose to replace the fish tissue were also used. The samples were irradiated at 1 Mrad in an air, nitrogen, or oxygen atmosphere. The destruction of −SH groups was measured and related to the amount and physical state of the tissue water. As free water was removed, destruction steadily increased, reaching a maximum at about 20% moisture. Destruction decreased markedly at moisture levels below 10%, and calorimetric measurements confirmed that 10% moisture was about the level of bound water in this species. These data suggest that dehydration favors the reaction of solute molecules with free radicals formed in the free water of muscle cells. At moisture levels greater than about 20%, simple free radical recombination is more likely than reaction with solute molecules, while below 20% moisture the reverse is true. The calculated α values support this conclusion, as do the results from model systems using cellulose.