Chemistry of phospholipid oxidation

Ana Reis Pereira, Corinne M. Spickett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The oxidation of lipids has long been a topic of interest in biological and food sciences, and the fundamental principles of non-enzymatic free radical attack on phospholipids are well established, although questions about detail of the mechanisms remain. The number of end products that are formed following the initiation of phospholipid peroxidation is large, and is continually growing as new structures of oxidized phospholipids are elucidated. Common products are phospholipids with esterified isoprostane-like structures and chain-shortened products containing hydroxy, carbonyl or carboxylic acid groups; the carbonyl-containing compounds are reactive and readily form adducts with proteins and other biomolecules. Phospholipids can also be attacked by reactive nitrogen and chlorine species, further expanding the range of products to nitrated and chlorinated phospholipids. Key to understanding the mechanisms of oxidation is the development of advanced and sensitive technologies that enable structural elucidation. Tandem mass spectrometry has proved invaluable in this respect and is generally the method of choice for structural work. A number of studies have investigated whether individual oxidized phospholipid products occur in vivo, and mass spectrometry techniques have been instrumental in detecting a variety of oxidation products in biological samples such as atherosclerotic plaque material, brain tissue, intestinal tissue and plasma, although relatively few have achieved an absolute quantitative analysis. The levels of oxidized phospholipids in vivo is a critical question, as there is now substantial evidence that many of these compounds are bioactive and could contribute to pathology. The challenges for the future will be to adopt lipidomic approaches to map the profile of oxidized phospholipid formation in different biological conditions, and relate this to their effects in vivo. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Oxidized phospholipids-their properties and interactions with proteins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2374–2387
Number of pages14
JournalBBA -Biomembranes
Issue number10
Early online date9 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • lipid peroxidation
  • inflammation
  • NMR
  • oxidative lipidomics
  • mass spectrometry
  • radical oxidation


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