Anaerobes and Oxygen
Country: United States
Date: October 2006
Why are anaerobes unable to reproduce in the
presence of oxygen? Why will they die?
Oxygen breaks down into what are known as free radicals which are toxic to
all cells. Organisms that live in an oxygen atmosphere have enzymes that
can turn the free radicals into something less toxic. Anaerobes don't have
these enzymes and are killed by the free radicals.
One theory is that anaerobes lack enzymes like catalase and super-oxide
dismutase which can break down hydrogen peroxide and other toxic oxygen
compounds which form during cell metabolism in an aerobic environment.
Ron Baker, PhD.
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Update: June 2012