Oxidative stress and antioxidants at biosurfaces: Plants, skin, and respiratory tract surfaces

Carroll E Cross, Albert Van der Vliet, Samuel Louie, Jens J. Thiele, Barry Halliwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Atmospheric pollutants represent an important source of oxidative and nitrosative stress to both terrestrial plants and to animals. The exposed biosurfaces of plants and animals are directly exposed to these pollutant stresses. Not surprisingly, living organisms have developed complex integrated extracellular and intracellular defense systems against stresses related to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS, RNS), including O3 and NO2. Plant and animal epithelial surfaces and respiratory tract surfaces contain antioxidants that would be expected to provide defense against environmental stress caused by ambient ROS and RNS, thus ameliorating their injurious effects on more delicate underlying cellular constituents. Parallelisms among these surfaces with regard to their antioxidant constituents and environmental oxidants are presented. The reactive substances at these biosurfaces not only represent an important protective system against oxidizing environments, but products of their reactions with ROS/RNS may also serve as biomarkers of environmental oxidative stress. Moreover, the reaction products may also induce injury to underlying cells or cause cell activation, resulting in production of proinflammatory substances including cytokines. In this review we discuss antioxidant defense systems against environmental toxins in plant cell wall/apoplastic fluids, dead keratinized cells/interstitial fluids of stratum corneum (the outermost skin layer), and mucus/respiratory tract lining fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1251
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 5
StatePublished - 1998


  • Ascorbic acid
  • Glutathione
  • Ozone
  • Plant antioxidants
  • Respiratory tract lining fluids
  • Skin antioxidants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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