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Definitions: Oxidants, Antioxidants, Free Radicals, ROS
Antioxidants are molecules characterized by function rather than common structural motifs. Their common feature is the capability of acting “anti”-oxidants in biological systems. Owing to the exposure of tissues to high concentrations of physically dissolved molecular oxygen as well as to nitrogen-containing biomolecules, the oxidants, usually implied as being opposed by antioxidants, are oxygen- and/or nitrogen-derived reactive species generated in biological systems (Fig. 1). There is, of course, a plethora of other biologically relevant reactive species and oxidants, including sulfur-centered radicals or chlorinated species. Referring to all of these using the frequently employed acronym ROS (“reactive oxygen species”), as we will in this entry, is, therefore, strictly speaking, incorrect. It has, however, the advantage that two inconsistencies are being avoided: if the compounds shown in Fig. 1were referred to...
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