• carbon-centered radical formation;
  • cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor;
  • cyclo-oxygenase-2 transfection;
  • PC12 cells;
  • phosphatidylserine oxidation;
  • radical spin-trapping


Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) is believed to induce neuronal oxidative stress via production of radicals. While oxygen radicals are not directly involved in COX-2-catalytic cycle, superoxide anion radicals have been repeatedly reported to play a critical role in COX-2-associated oxidative stress. To resolve the controversy, we characterized production of free radicals in PC12 cells in which COX-2 expression was manipulated either genetically or by direct protein transfection and compared them with those generated by a recombinant COX-2 in a cell-free system. Using spin-traps α-(4-pyridyl-1-oxide)-N-t-butylnitrone, 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide and 4-((9-acridinecarbonyl) amino)-2,2,6,6- tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (Ac-Tempo), we observed arachidonic acid (AA)-dependent production of carbon-centered radicals by heme-reconstituted recombinant COX-2. No oxygen radicals or thiyl radicals have been detected. COX-2 also catalyzed AA-dependent one-electron co-oxidation of ascorbate to ascorbate radicals. Next, we used two different approaches of COX-2 expression in cells, PCXII cells which express isopropyl-1-thio-β-d-galactopyranoside inducible COX-2, and PC12 cells transfected with COX-2 using a protein delivery reagent, Chariot. In both models, COX-2-dependent AA-induced generation of carbon-centered radicals was documented using spin-traps and Ac-Tempo. No oxygen radical formation was detected in COX-2-transfected cells by either spin-traps or fluorogenic probe, dihydroethidium. In the presence of ascorbate, AA-induced COX-2-dependent ascorbate radicals were detected. AA caused a significant and selective oxidation of one of the major phospholipids, phosphatidylserine (PS). PS was not a direct substrate for COX-2 but was co-oxidized in the presence of AA. The radical generation and PS oxidation were inhibited by COX-2 inhibitors, niflumic acid, nimesulide, or NS-398. Thus, COX-2 generated carbon-centered radicals but not oxygen radicals or thiyl radicals are responsible for oxidative stress in AA-challenged PC12 cells overexpressing COX-2.