Peroxisome - free radical scavenger - definition, structure, function and biology (2023)

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What are peroxisomes? A quick overview

The peroxisome is an organelle attached to a spherical membrane and is responsible for breaking down fatty acid (oil molecule) to produce energy. The peroxisome also mediates many other biochemical reactions in virtually all eukaryotic cells.

Many enzymes in peroxisomes catalyze redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions that produce hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2) as a dangerous by-product. A peroxisomal enzyme called "catalase" can destroy H2Ö2in the water (H2O) and oxygen (O2) to keep the cell safe. Peroxisomes get their name from the activities of generating and removing hydrogen peroxide.

Peroxisomes: what do they look like?

Peroxisomes are small organelles (0.1-1 µm in diameter) and are located in the cytoplasm of a cell. Peroxisomes are too small to be seen under a standard light microscope. An electron microscope or a fluorescence microscope is required to observe and examine peroxisomes.

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[In this figure]Immunofluorescence image of peroxisomes (green) by an antibody against a peroxisomal membrane protein, PEX14 (peroxisomal biogenesis factor 14).
photo source:

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[In this figure]Immunofluorescence image of peroxisomal membrane protein 70 (PMP 70, cyan); nuclei (red); membrane (blue).
photo source:Michael W. Davidson

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[In this figure]Electron micrographs of purified peroxisomes. Magnification 38,000x.
photo source:Fujiki Y. et al., J. Cell. 1982

The structure of the peroxisome.

The peroxisome is a membrane-bound vesicle containing a fine-grained matrix. The peroxisome membrane resembles the cell membrane or ER. The membrane-divided space creates an environment optimized for promoting various metabolic reactions required to maintain cellular functions and organism viability.

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[In this figure]Peroxisomen.
Left: The structure of the peroxisome. They have a simple structure made up of two main parts; an outer shell, a single lipid bilayer membrane, and a crystalline core.
Right: an electron micrograph of peroxisomes. In this example, the peroxisomes contain a highly condensed crystalline core of urate oxidase. Enzymes accumulate in large amounts so once they are needed in the cell, they can be released quickly, allowing peroxisomes to act quickly when needed. (Picture ofSchrader, M. and Fahimi, H. 2008. The peroxisome: still a mysterious organelle.Histochemistry and Cell Biology129(4), S. 421-440.)

Sometimes a condensed crystal nucleus can be seen at the center of the peroxisome. The nucleus contains a variety of enzymes that catalyze cellular functions, primarily metabolism. Normally, the most concentrated of these enzymes, catalase or urate oxidase, can become so large in number that they aggregate into a crystalline core at the center of the organelle. This structure can be seen in electron micrographs.

The number, size, and protein composition of peroxisomes are variable and dependent on cell type and environmental conditions. In baker's yeast (S. cerevisiae), for example, there are few small peroxisomes when the cells are plentifully supplied with glucose. On the other hand, when long-chain fatty acids were fed to the yeast as the sole nutrient source, the cells produced larger peroxisomes to meet metabolic needs.

[In this video]Time-lapse microscopy of mitochondria marked in red and peroxisomes marked in green. The two organelles show complex interactions. Video is played in real time at 48x speed.

What does the peroxisome do?

The peroxisome is a multifunctional biochemical laboratory in the cell.

Peroxisomes contain more than 50 different enzymes involved in a variety of biochemical reactions. Peroxisomes were originally defined as organelles that perform oxidation reactions leading to the production of hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2). Since hydrogen peroxide is harmful to the cell, peroxisomes also contain the enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water. A variety of substrates are degraded by such oxidative reactions in peroxisomes, including uric acid, amino acids, and fatty acids. The oxidation of fatty acids is a particularly important example as it is a major source of metabolic energy.

Chemical reactions are potentially harmful to cells. Therefore, we need peroxisomes to direct chemical reactions within a membrane-enclosed space that is separate from the rest of the cells. Here, let me pay tribute to the peroxisomes that do the risky jobs for us.

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[In this figure]Peroxisomes interact closely with other organelles in cells. Biomolecules are transported to peroxisomes for specific chemical reactions. The products are also exported to other organelles for biological functions.

Peroxisomal enzymes mediate redox reactions and generate hydrogen peroxide

From a chemical point of view, many enzymes in peroxisomes catalyze redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions.

Oxygen is an active molecule and many chemical reactions take place based on the reactivities of oxygen. In general, oxidation is the addition of oxygen (raised oxidation state) and reduction is the removal of oxygen (decreased oxidation state) from a molecule. Usually the oxidation burns. When a piece of wood is set on fire, the oxidation state of the carbon atoms in the wood is increased by the reaction of oxygen gas, converting the carbon into carbon dioxide (CO).2).

When a reduction reaction occurs in the peroxisome, the enzyme removes oxygen (in the form of superoxide O2•−). However, the enzyme cannot hold oxygen forever, so the oxygen is transferred to a water molecule. As a result, the water molecule is oxidized to ahydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2).

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[In this figure]A stable atom has a balanced number of electrons, no more and no less. Free radicals are eager to steal electrons from other atoms to achieve their unstable state. Antioxidants have free electrons that they can donate to free radicals to quench them.

Molecules containing chemically reactive oxygen (as O2•, •OH2Ö2, and NOT) can be calledreactive oxygen species(ROS) orfree radicals. Many ROS are formed as an unavoidable by-product of normal cellular metabolism. These ROS must be carefully removed from the cells; otherwise ROS damages cells by undesired reactions with DNA, lipids and proteins.

In fact, many diseases like cancer and aging are caused by the bad effects of ROS on our bodies. Radiation, tobacco, and drugs also increase the likelihood of ROS damage.antioxidantsor radical scavengers can reverse the effect of ROS. Because of this, we are encouraged to eat healthier foods that are fortified with natural antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E.

Peroxisome and catalase: radical scavengers

As previously mentioned, peroxisomes produce many molecules of hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2) as hazardous by-products. In fact, "peroxy" - some got its name from that. Fortunately, peroxisomes can break down these H2Ö2and decompose them in water (H2O) and oxygen (O2). This critical reaction is mediated by another peroxisomal enzyme called "Catalase“.

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[In this figure]Catalase is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide, converting it into water and oxygen. Alternatively, catalase can use hydrogen peroxide to catalyze the oxidation of an organic molecule (A), resulting in the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to water.

The peroxisome helps break down fatty acids.

Fatty acids are the basic building blocks of fat and oil. The foods we eat contain a variety of fatty acids. For example, the fatty acids can be saturated or unsaturated fats. They can be further classified according to their different carbon chain lengths (from 4 to 28 carbon atoms).

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[In this figure]A lipid molecule with two fatty acid chains (18 carbon atoms). One string is saturated and the other is unsaturated.

To use these fatty acids, peroxisomes must break down some of the long-chain and branched-chain fatty acids into simpler nutrients. This process involves several special enzymes and oxidative reactions (alpha and beta oxidation) accompanied by the production of hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2) oxygen.

Other biochemical reactions in peroxisomes

In addition to providing a compartment for oxidation reactions, peroxisomes are involved in lipid biosynthesis. In animal cells, cholesterol and dolichol are synthesized in both peroxisomes and the ER. In the liver, peroxisomes are also involved in the synthesis of bile acids derived from cholesterol.

In addition, peroxisomes contain enzymes required for the synthesis of plasmalogens, a family of phospholipids in which one of the hydrocarbon chains is attached to glycerol through an ether bond instead of an ester bond. Plasmalogens are important membrane components in some tissues, particularly the heart and brain. In addition, peroxisomes in liver cells are also responsible for the detoxification of many chemicals, including alcohol and drugs. It is fair to say that the peroxisome is the chemistry laboratory in the cell.

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[In this figure]Summary of the functions of peroxisomes.
The major metabolic functions of peroxisomes in mammalian cells include β-oxidation of very long-chain fatty acids, α-oxidation of branched-chain fatty acids, synthesis of bile acids and ether-linked phospholipids, and elimination of reactive oxygen species.

Do plant cells have peroxisomes?

Yes, peroxisomes are found in the cytoplasm of virtually all eukaryotic cells, including animal and plant cells.

In plant cells, peroxisomes serve two other important roles.

First, peroxisomes (also calledGlioxisome) in the seeds are responsible for converting stored fatty acids into carbohydrates, which is essential for providing energy and raw materials for the growth of the germinating plant. It does this through a series of reactions called the glyoxylate cycle.

Second, the peroxisomes in the leaves participate in the recycling of carbon from phosphoglycolate (a by-product formed during photosynthesis).Photorespiration.

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[In this figure]Photorespiration involves a complex network of enzymatic reactions that exchange metabolites between chloroplasts, leaf peroxisomes, and mitochondria.

Assembly and biogenesis of peroxisomes.

The structure of peroxisomes is fundamentally similar to that of mitochondria and chloroplasts and not that of the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus and lysosomes. Proteins are synthesized on free cytosolic ribosomes and then imported into peroxisomes. Phospholipids are also imported into peroxisomes from the smooth endoplasmic reticulum. The import of proteins and phospholipids leads to the growth of peroxisomes, and new peroxisomes are then formed by dividing old ones.

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[In this figure] Assembly of peroxisomes.
Proteins destined for peroxisomes are synthesized on free ribosomes. Protein import leads to the growth of peroxisomes. The formation of new peroxisomes by division of the old ones.

The discovery of the peroxisome

Peroxisomes were identified as organelles by Belgian cytologist Christian de Duve in 1967. De Duve and his colleagues discovered that peroxisomes contain multiple oxidases involved in the production of hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2) and catalase involved in the degradation of H2Ö2to oxygen and water. Due to their role in the metabolism of peroxides, De Duve named them "peroxisomes", replacing the previously used morphological term "microbodies".

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[In this figure]The 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Albert Claude, Christian de Duve and George E. Palade for their work in cell biology, particularly the discovery of cell organelles, lysosomes, peroxisomes and ribosomes.
photo source:The Nobel Prize.

Lysosome gegen Peroxisome

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Lysosome and peroxisome are two cell organelles that are often compared. We've created a table here to summarize the difference.

Lysosomes break down biological polymers such as proteins (into amino acids) and polysaccharides (into sugars).Peroxisomes oxidize organic compounds, break down fatty acids, and break down hydrogen peroxides.
Cell Recycling Centercell chemistry laboratory
It consists of degrading enzymes.It consists of oxidative enzymes.
Responsible for digestion (materials from outside or inside the cells)Responsible for protecting cells from reactive oxygen species or free radicals.
Found in animals (vacuoles in plants)It is found in all eukaryotes.
Derived from the fusion of endosomes and vesicles derived from the Golgi apparatus.They originate from the endoplasmic reticulum and are capable of self-replication.
Lysosomal enzymes produced in the rough endoplasmic reticulumPeroxisomal enzymes produced on free ribosomes
Comparatively large; different according to cell types; 0.5-1.0 micronComparatively small; 0.2-1.0 microns
Participates in endocytosis, phagocytosis and autophagy.Participates in the biosynthesis of lipids and bile acids; Photorespiration in plant cells
Degradation reactions do not generate energy.Oxidative reactions in peroxisomes break down fatty acids to produce ATP.

peroxisomal disorders

Peroxisomal disorders are diseases caused by mutations in genes involved in peroxisome biogenesis. Peroxisomal disorders are congenital disorders and range from relatively mild to severe in nature. For example, Zellweger syndrome is characterized by the complete absence or reduced number of peroxisomes. The mutations that cause Zellweger syndrome cause copper, iron, and very long-chain fatty acids to build up in the blood and in tissues such as the liver, brain, and kidneys. Babies with Zellweger syndrome are often born with a facial deformity and intellectual disability. Most babies with Zellweger syndrome live no more than a year.


  • The peroxisome is a spherical organelle responsible for breaking down fatty acids (oil molecule) for energy.
  • Peroxisomes in liver cells also take care of the detoxification of many chemicals, including alcohol and drugs.
  • Many enzymes in peroxisomes catalyze redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions that produce hydrogen peroxide (H2Ö2) as a dangerous by-product.
  • The peroxisomal enzyme called "catalase" can H2Ö2in the water (H2O) and oxygen (O2) to keep the cell safe.
  • The major metabolic functions of peroxisomes in mammalian cells include β-oxidation of very long-chain fatty acids, α-oxidation of branched-chain fatty acids, synthesis of bile acids and ether-linked phospholipids, and elimination of reactive oxygen species.


"Peroxisomes" The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd Edition.


"Difference Between Lysosome and Peroxisome"

"Peroxisomes: a nexus for lipid metabolism and cell signaling"


What are Peroxisomal free radical scavenger? ›

Peroxisomes are one of the main sites in the cell where oxygen free radicals are both generated and scavenged. The balance between these two processes is believed to be of great importance for proper functioning of cells and has been implicated in aging and carcinogenesis.

What is peroxisomes structure and function? ›

Peroxisomes are small vesicles, single membrane-bound organelles found in the eukaryotic cells. They contain digestive enzymes for breaking down toxic materials in the cell and oxidative enzymes for metabolic activity.

What is the structure of the peroxisomes? ›

Peroxisome structures are single membrane-bound vesicles that are involved in energy metabolism and lipid biosynthesis. Here we describe peroxisome stains using organelle-specific fluorescent fusion proteins in live cells or antibodies to peroxisome membrane proteins in fixed cells.

What is the definition of peroxisome in biology? ›

Peroxisomes are small, membrane-enclosed organelles (Figure 10.24) that contain enzymes involved in a variety of metabolic reactions, including several aspects of energy metabolism.

What are the 4 functions of peroxisomes? ›

Peroxisomes are organelles that sequester diverse oxidative reactions and play important roles in metabolism, reactive oxygen species detoxification, and signaling. Oxidative pathways housed in peroxisomes include fatty acid β-oxidation, which contributes to embryogenesis, seedling growth, and stomatal opening.

What is a free radical scavenger? ›

Listen to pronunciation. (free RA-dih-kul SKA-ven-jer) A substance, such as an antioxidant, that helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are made during normal cell metabolism (chemical changes that take place in a cell).

Where are peroxisomes function? ›

peroxisome, membrane-bound organelle occurring in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells. Peroxisomes play a key role in the oxidation of specific biomolecules. They also contribute to the biosynthesis of membrane lipids known as plasmalogens.

Which process is a function of peroxisomes? ›

Peroxisome functions include: Transferring hydrogen atoms to oxygen in order to make hydrogen peroxide. Breaking hydrogen peroxide down into harmless water to detoxify the cell through the enzyme catalase. Converting fatty acids into sugar through specialized peroxisomes called glyoxysomes.

What is peroxisome also called? ›

Peroxisomes are oxidative organelles. Frequently, molecular oxygen serves as a co-substrate, from which hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is then formed. Peroxisomes owe their name to hydrogen peroxide generating and scavenging activities. They perform key roles in lipid metabolism and the conversion of reactive oxygen species.

What are the characteristics of peroxisome? ›

Peroxisomes represent cell organelles present in both unicellular eukaryotes and most of the animal and plant cells. Peroxisomes contain about 50 enzymes with high variability in spectrum and quantity, depending on nutritional conditions and presence of some xenobiotics (peroxisome proliferations).

What is the importance of peroxisomes? ›

Peroxisomes are indispensable for human health and development. They represent ubiquitous subcellular organelles which compartmentalize enzymes responsible for several crucial metabolic processes such as β-oxidation of specific fatty acids, biosynthesis of ether phospholipids and metabolism of reactive oxygen species.

What are the types of peroxisomes? ›

Two types were distinguished: rounded to oval forms with a median lesser diameter of 0.23-0.31 microns, and tubular, vermiform organelles 0.1 microns thick and up to 3 microns long. Both types coexist in most patients.

What is not a function of the peroxisome? ›

Answer and Explanation: B) Protein synthesis is not a function of the peroxisome. Rather, this is a function of ribosomes, which can be found freely in the cytoplasm or attached to the endoplasmic reticulum. All of the other functions listed are ones of the peroxisome.

What is the function of the peroxisome in the eukaryotic cell? ›

Peroxisomes are membrane-bound organelles in most eukaryotic cells, primarily involved in lipid metabolism and the conversion of reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide into safer molecules like water and oxygen. Fats are convenient energy storage molecules due to their high energy density.

How many peroxisomes are there? ›

A typical human cell has 102–103 peroxisomes distributed throughout its cytoplasm, where they form contacts with other organelles, particularly the ER, lipid droplets, and mitochondria.

How are peroxisomes formed? ›

Peroxisomes can form by growth and division from pre-existing organelles and/or by de novo synthesis and further maturation from the ER. All peroxisomal matrix proteins are translated on free ribosomes in the cytoplasm and are post-translationally imported into peroxisomes by a unique import machinery.

Where are peroxisomes located? ›

PEROXISOME – the organelle behind the film 'Lorenzo's Oil' Peroxisomes are small rounded organelles found free floating in the cell cytoplasm. These structures contain at least 50 enzymes and are separated from the cytoplasm by a lipid bilayer single membrane barrier.

How do radical scavengers work? ›

Free radical scavengers either prevent reactive oxygen species from being formed, or remove them before they can damage vital components of the cell. They are known as preventive and chain breaking antioxidants.

What is the best free radical scavenger? ›

Vitamin E is accepted as the most potent radical-scavenging lipophilic antioxidant.

What are the three types of free radicals? ›

Types of Free Radicals

Most organic radicals are quite unstable and very reactive. There are two kinds of radicals, neutral radicals and charged radicals as shown below. Moreover, there are two types of radicals: the sigma radicals and the pi radicals.

Who discovered peroxisomes? ›

De Duve and Baudhuin (1966) were the first who isolated peroxisomes from rat liver, and their biochemical studies led to the discovery of the colocalization of several H2O2-producing oxidases as well as catalase, an H2O2-degrading enzyme, in the matrix of peroxisomes (Fig. 1).

What is the shape of peroxisome? ›

Peroxisomes are usually spherical, but they can change their shape and be elongated or even form reticula in some cell types and environments9,10 (FIG. 1a,b). In addition, they can conditionally increase in size and number (FIG.

What drugs are free radical scavengers? ›

Free Radical Scavengers
Nitric OxideMetallothionein-1Atarget
Nitric OxideIndoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1target
Nitric OxideNitric oxide synthase, endothelialtarget
AllopurinolXanthine dehydrogenase/oxidasetarget
63 more rows

What are peroxisomal diseases? ›

Peroxisomal disorders are a heterogeneous group of inborn errors of metabolism that result in impairment of peroxisome function. In most cases, this results in neurologic dysfunction of varying extent.

Do peroxisomes detoxify free radicals? ›

Peroxisomes oversee reactions that neutralize free radicals, which cause cellular damage and cell death. Peroxisomes chemically neutralize poisons through a process that produces large amounts of toxic H2O2, which is then converted into water and oxygen.

What causes peroxisomal disorder? ›

What causes peroxisomal disorders? Peroxisomal disorders are inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, meaning that both the mother and father of a patient have to carry the recessive gene for the patient to have the disorder.

What happens in a peroxisome? ›

Peroxisomes break down organic molecules by the process of oxidation to produce hydrogen peroxide. This is then quickly converted to oxygen and water.

What functions detoxify free radicals? ›

Inside the human body, the organ primarily accountable for the detoxification is the liver.

How does peroxisome detoxify the cell? ›

Some types of peroxisomes, such as those in liver cells, detoxify alcohol and other harmful compounds by transferring hydrogen from the poisons to molecules of oxygen (a process termed oxidation).

Where is peroxisome formed? ›

The birth of new peroxisomes starts at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which delivers lipids and membrane proteins. To form a new peroxisomal compartment, ER-derived preperoxisomal vesicles carrying different membrane proteins fuse, allowing the assembly of the peroxisomal translocon.

Why is it called the peroxisome? ›

Peroxisomes contain enzymes that oxidize certain molecules normally found in the cell, notably fatty acids and amino acids. Those oxidation reactions produce hydrogen peroxide, which is the basis of the name peroxisome.

What organs contain peroxisomes? ›

Significance: Peroxisomes are organelles present in most eukaryotic cells. The organs with the highest density of peroxisomes are the liver and kidneys.


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