The effect of free radicals derived from thiocyanate, bromide, and carbonate ions on the activity of ribonuclease have been studied in neutral and alkaline solutions. Thiocyanate ions and, to a lesser extent, carbonate ions, protect ribonuclease against radiation-induced inactivation, although the presence of bromide ions has little effect. The absolute rate constants for the reactions of these radical anions with ribonuclease have been measured as a function of pH and salt concentration, and the transient absorption spectra of the reaction products have been determined. The results suggest that damage to a histidine residue, or residues, leads directly to loss of activity and support previous conclusions that exposed tyrosine residues in the enzyme are not essential for activity.

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