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IUBMB Life. 2000 May;49(5):427-35.

Mitochondrial oxidative stress plays a key role in aging and apoptosis.

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  • 1Departamento de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universitat de Valencia, Spain.


Harman first suggested in 1972 that mitochondria might be the biological clock in aging, noting that the rate of oxygen consumption should determine the rate of accumulation of mitochondrial damage produced by free radical reactions. Later in 1980 Miquel and coworkers proposed the mitochondrial theory of cell aging. Mitochondria from postmitotic cells use O2 at a high rate, hence releasing oxygen radicals that exceed the cellular antioxidant defences. The key role of mitochondria in cell aging has been outlined by the degeneration induced in cells microinjected with mitochondria isolated from fibroblasts of old rats, especially by the inverse relationship reported between the rate of mitochondrial production of hydroperoxide and the maximum life span of species. An important change in mitochondrial lipid composition is the age-related decrease found in cardiolipin content. The concurrent enhancement of lipid peroxidation and oxidative modification of proteins in mitochondria further increases mutations and oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the aging process. The respiratory enzymes containing the defective mtDNA-encoded protein subunits may increase the production of reactive oxygen species, which in turn would aggravate the oxidative damage to mitochondria. Moreover, superoxide radicals produced during mitochondrial respiration react with nitric oxide inside mitochondria to yield damaging peroxynitrite. Treatment with certain antioxidants, such as sulphur-containing antioxidants, vitamins C and E, or the Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761, protects against the age-associated oxidative damage to mtDNA and the oxidation of mitochondrial glutathione. Moreover, the EGb 761 extract also prevents changes in mitochondrial morphology and function associated with aging of the brain and liver.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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