Ozone is Produced by
During Bacterial Killing
The Scripps Research
Institute La Jolla, California November 14, 2002.
The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is
reporting that antibodies can destroy bacteria,
playing a hitherto unknown role in immune protection.
Furthermore, when antibodies do this, they appear to produce the
reactive gas ozone.
The ozone may be part of a previously
unrecognized killing mechanism that would enhance the
defensive role of antibodies by allowing them to participate
directly in the killing. Previously, antibodies were believed
only to signal an immune response. Also called immunoglobulins,
antibodies are secreted proteins produced by immune cells that
are designed to recognize a wide range of foreign pathogens.
After a bacterium, virus, or other pathogen enters the
bloodstream, antibodies target antigens [proteins, fat molecules,
and other pieces of the pathogen] that are specific to that
foreign invader. These antibodies then alert the immune system to
the presence of the invaders and attract lethal
"effector" immune cells to the site of infection.
For the last hundred years, immunologists
have firmly held that the role of antibodies was solely to
recognize pathogens and signal the immune system to make an
immune response. The conventional wisdom was that the dirty work
of killing the pathogens was to be left to other parts of the
immune system. Now, Scripps has demonstrated that
antibodies also have the ability to kill bacteria. This
suggests that rather than simply recognizing foreign antigens and
then activating other parts of the immune system to the site of
infection, the antibodies may further enhance the immune response
by directly killing some of the bacteria themselves.
Antibodies appear to make ozone , which they
detected through its chemical signature, which no other known
molecule has. Never before has ozone been detected in
It has been known that all antibodies have
the ability to produce hydrogen peroxide, but they need to first
have available a molecule known as "singlet" oxygen -
another highly reactive oxygen species - to use as a substrate.
Singlet oxygen is an energetically charged form of oxygen that
forms spontaneously during normal metabolic processes. Phagocytes
like neutrophils produce singlet oxygen and are the most likely
source of the substrate for antibody production of hydrogen
peroxide. Antibodies attract neutophils to the site of an
infection. Once there, the neutrophils will engulf and destroy
bacteria and other pathogens by blasting them with singlet oxygen
and other oxidative molecules.
The antibodies combine singlet oxygen
with water to produce hydrogen peroxide, producing ozone as a
Another interesting finding is that the
antibodies carry the reaction through an unusual intermediate
chemical species of dihydrogen trioxide, a
reduced form of ozone. Dihydrogen trioxide H2O2 + O1 =
H2O3 has also never before
been observed in biological systems, and its presence as an
intermediate has been the source of considerable speculation in
the scientific community. The team's reported detection of
ozone is strong support of this proposed dihydrogen trioxide
intermediate, and now the team is tackling the larger question of
what it means.
The research article, "Evidence for
Antibody-Catalyzed Ozone Formation in Bacterial Killing" is
authored by Paul Wentworth, Jr., Jonathan E. McDunn, Anita D.
Wentworth, Cindy Takeuchi, Jorge Nieva, Teresa Jones, Cristina
Bautista, Julie M. Ruedi, Abel Gutierrez, Kim D. Janda, Bernard
M. Babior, Albert Eschenmoser, and Richard A. Lerner, and appears
in the November 18, 2002 "Science Express," the
advanced publication edition of the journal Science. The article
will appear in Science later this year.