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Carotenoids, and β-carotene in particular, are important natural antioxidants. Singlet oxygen, the lowest excited state of molecular oxygen, is an intermediate often involved in natural oxidation reactions. The fact that β-carotene efficiently quenches singlet oxygen in solution-phase systems is invariably invoked when explaining the biological antioxidative properties of β-carotene. We recently developed unique microscope-based time-resolved spectroscopic methods that allow us to directly examine singlet oxygen in mammalian cells. We now demonstrate that intracellular singlet oxygen, produced in a photosensitized process, is in fact not efficiently deactivated by β-carotene. This observation requires a re-evaluation of β-carotene's role as an antioxidant in mammalian systems and now underscores the importance of mechanisms by which β-carotene inhibits radical reactions.


Gabriela N Bosio, Thomas Breitenbach, Julieta Parisi, Miguel Reigosa, Frances H Blaikie, Brian W Pedersen, Elsa F F Silva, Daniel O Mártire, Peter R Ogilby. Antioxidant β-carotene does not quench singlet oxygen in mammalian cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2013 Jan 9;135(1):272-9

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PMID: 23231017

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