Reactive oxygen species have been implicated as mediators of inflammation in ulcerative colitis. Chemiluminescence is a reliable means of estimating reactive oxygen species in biological media. Increased reactive oxygen species values in the inflamed colonic mucosa in rats were seen by chemiluminescence. The aims of the study were to find out if chemiluminescence is raised in the colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis and correlates with disease activity, and to elucidate the sources of the chemiluminescence. It was found that reactive oxygen species, as measured by the chemiluminescence technique, are raised in inflamed colonic mucosa and correlates with symptom score, sigmoidoscopic score, disease activity, and activity of the neutrophil enzyme myeloperoxidase. Chemiluminescence was inhibited by a myeloperoxidase inhibitor (azide) and an H2O2 scavenger (catalase) but not by allopurinol, an inhibitor of the enzyme xanthine oxidase. Chemiluminescence was also inhibited by indomethacin, but this did not seem to be related to inhibition of cyclo-oxygenase. These findings suggest that a likely cellular source of reactive oxygen species in the inflamed colon of patients with ulcerative colitis is the neutrophil and that myeloperoxidase conversion of H2O2 to hypochlorous acid, contributes to the chemiluminescence signal and possibly, to the tissue injury. Neither cyclo-oxygenase nor lipoxygenase seem to play a part as sources for the chemiluminescence.
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