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Alloxan (2,4,5,6-tetraoxypyrimidine; 2,4,5,6-pyrimidinetetrone) is an oxygenated pyrimidine derivative. It is present as alloxan hydrate in aqueous solution.


Alloxan was originally isolated in 1818 by Brugnatelli and got its name in 1838 by Friedrich Wöhler and Justus von Liebig. The name "Alloxan" emerged from an amalgamation of the words "Allantoin" and "Oxalsäure"(oxaluric acid).

Biological effects

Alloxan is a toxic glucose analogue, which selectively destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas when administered to rodents and many other animal species. This causes an insulin-dependend diabetes mellitus(called "Alloxan Diabetes") in these animals, with characteristics similar to type 1 diabetes in humans. Alloxan is selectively toxic to insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells because it preferentially accumulates in beta cells through uptake via the GLUT2 glucose transporter. Alloxan, in the presence of intracellular thiols, generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) in a cyclic reaction with its reduction product, dialuric acid. The beta cell toxic action of alloxan is initiated by free radicals formed in this redox reaction. Alloxan does not cause diabetes in humans.


The original preparation for alloxan was by oxidation of uric acid by nitric acid. Alloxan is a strong oxidizing agent and it forms a hemiacetal with its reduced reaction product dialuric acid (in which a carbonyl group is reduced to a hydroxyl group) which is called alloxantin.


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