The Role of Zinc in Antioxidant Defence

Zn plays a role in antioxidant defence, protecting cells from the damaging effects of oxygen radicals, which are generated during immune activation. Zn is a component of the cytosolic superoxide dismutase enzyme. Zn also regulates the expression of metallothionein and metallothionein-like proteins in lymphocytes, which have antioxidant activity (Prasad, 1993). Membrane Zn levels are strongly influenced by dietary Zn levels, and Zn concentrations in cell membranes appear to be important in preserving their integrity through poorly defined mechanisms involving binding to thiolate groups. Zn release from thio-late bonds can prevent lipid peroxidation. In addition, nitric oxide induces Zn release from metallothionein, the primary Zn-binding and transport protein in the body, which may limit free-radical membrane damage during inflammation. Indeed, Zn supplementation could prevent pulmonary pathology due to hyperoxia in rats (Taylor and Bray, 1991).

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