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Professor Mark Hampton

Mark HamptonPrincipal Investigator

PhD (Otago) MSc(Hons) (Canterbury)

Tel +64 3 378 6225

Research interests

Oxidants (also called reactive oxygen species or free radicals) are continuously generated in our body, and we rely on sophisticated antioxidant systems to prevent them from causing damage. However, oxidants also have beneficial roles. They can act as signalling molecules that regulate a number of life and death pathways in cells, and they are generated by the immune system to fight microbes. My research is focused on how understanding how cells sense and respond to oxidants, and how these pathways might be modulated to prevent and treat human disease.

Computer-generated image of a mitochondrionMitochondria are the small organelles inside cells that convert food into energy. These powerhouses are also a major site of oxidant production. Mitochondrial oxidants can cause damage, and they have been linked to various cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases as well as ageing, but they also regulate normal biological processes. We measure mitochondrial function in human cells, and study mitochondrial antioxidant defenses, including the peroxiredoxins, which act as sensors and markers of oxidative stress. We are also interested in a class of dietary compounds called isothiocyanates that can influence antioxidant networks and mitochondrial function.

All of our cells have self-destruct programs that ensure removal when they become damaged or are no longer needed in the body. Mitochondria are central players in these cell death pathways, and it appears that mitochondrial oxidants are involved in regulating cell death, but it is not clear exactly how this happens. Cancer cells are often resistant to undergoing cell death, and it has been proposed that their antioxidant defenses are more powerful. It may be possible to target these defenses, making it easier to kill cancer cells.

White blood cells generate oxidants to destroy pathogenic bacteria, but these oxidants also appear to regulate the lifespan of immune cells and the resolution of inflammation. We are studying the effects of oxidants on the function of white blood cells and other cells and mediators present at an inflammatory site.

In the media

Professor Mark Hampton was featured on Radio New Zealand's Our Changing World series in April 2013.

Major review articles 

  1. Winterbourn C.C., Kettle A.J. and Hampton M.B. Reactive oxygen species and neutrophil function. Ann. Rev. Biochem. in press, 2016.
  2. Hampton M.B. and O’Connor K.M. Peroxiredoxins and the regulation of cell death. Mol. Cells 39:72-76, 2016.
  3. Poynton R.A. and Hampton M.B. Peroxiredoxins as biomarkers of oxidative stress. Biochim Biophys Acta 1840:906-912, 2014.
  4. Brown K.K. and Hampton M.B. Biological targets of isothiocyanates. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1810:888-894, 2011.
  5. Cox A.G., Winterbourn C.C. and Hampton M.B. Mitochondrial peroxiredoxin involvement in antioxidant defence and redox signalling. Biochem. J. 425:313-325, 2010.
  6. Winterbourn C.C. and Hampton M.B. Thiol chemistry and specificity in redox signalling. Free Rad. Biol. Med. 45:549-561, 2008.
  7. Low F.M., Hampton M.B. and Winterbourn C.C. Peroxiredoxin 2 and peroxide metabolism in the erythrocyte. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 10:1621-1629, 2008.
  8. Hampton, M.B., Fadeel, B, and Orrenius S. Redox regulation of the caspases during apoptosis. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 854:328-335, 1998.
  9. Hampton, M.B. and Orrenius S. Redox regulation of apoptotic cell death. BioFactors 8:1-5, 1998.
  10. Hampton, M.B., Kettle, A.J., and Winterbourn C.C. Inside the neutrophil phagosome: oxidants, myeloperoxidase and bacterial killing. Blood 92:3007-3017, 1998.