Ascorbate-mediated transplasma membrane electron transport in pulmonary arterial endothelial cells

Marilyn P. Merker, Lars E. Olson, Robert D. Bongard, Meha K. Patel, John H. Linehan, Christopher A. Dawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Pulmonary endothelial cells are capable of reducing certain electron acceptors at the luminal plasma membrane surface. Motivation for studying this phenomenon comes in part from the expectation that it may be important both as an endothelial antioxidant defense mechanism and in redox cycling of toxic free radicals. Pulmonary arterial endothelial cells in culture reduce the oxidized forms of thiazine compounds that have been used as electron acceptor probes for studying the mechanisms of transplasma membrane electron transport. However, they reduce another commonly studied electron acceptor, ferricyanide, only very slowly by comparison. In the present study, we examined the influence of ascorbate [ascorbic acid (AA)] and dehydroascorbate [dehydroascorbic acid (DHAA)] on the ferricyanide and thiazine reductase activities of the bovine pulmonary arterial endothelial cell surface. The endothelial cells were grown on microcarrier beads so that the reduction of ferricyanide and methylene blue could be studied colorimetrically in spectrophotometer cuvettes and in flow-through cell columns. The ferricyanide reductase activity could be increased 80-fold by adding DHAA to the medium, with virtually no effect on methylene blue reduction. The DHAA effect persisted after the DHAA was removed from the medium. AA also stimulated the ferricyanide reductase activity but was less potent, and the relative potencies of AA and DHAA correlated with their relative rates of uptake by the cells. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that AA is an intracellular electron donor for an endothelial plasma membrane ferricyanide reductase and that the stimulatory effect of DHAA is the result of increasing intracellular AA. Adding sufficient DHAA to markedly increase extracellular ferricyanide reduction had little effect on the plasma membrane methylene blue reductase activity, suggesting that pulmonary arterial endothelial cells have at least two separate transplasma membrane electron transport systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L685-L693
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number5 18-5
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Ascorbic acid transport
  • Cytochrome c
  • Dehydroascorbic acid
  • Dehydroascorbic acid transport
  • Endothelial cell column
  • Ferricyanide
  • Methylene blue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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