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Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Sep 15;51(6):1087-105. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.05.039. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Relationship of electrophilic stress to aging.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


This review begins with the premise that an organism's life span is determined by the balance between two countervailing forces: (i) the sum of destabilizing effects and (ii) the sum of protective longevity-assurance processes. Against this backdrop, the role of electrophiles is discussed, both as destabilizing factors and as signals that induce protective responses. Because most biological macromolecules contain nucleophilic centers, electrophiles are particularly reactive and toxic in a biological context. The majority of cellular electrophiles are generated from polyunsaturated fatty acids by a peroxidation chain reaction that is readily triggered by oxygen-centered radicals, but propagates without further input of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Thus, the formation of lipid-derived electrophiles such as 4-hydroxynon-2-enal (4-HNE) is proposed to be relatively insensitive to the level of initiating ROS, but to depend mainly on the availability of peroxidation-susceptible fatty acids. This is consistent with numerous observations that life span is inversely correlated to membrane peroxidizability, and with the hypothesis that 4-HNE may constitute the mechanistic link between high susceptibility of membrane lipids to peroxidation and shortened life span. Experimental interventions that directly alter membrane composition (and thus their peroxidizability) or modulate 4-HNE levels have the expected effects on life span, establishing that the connection is not only correlative but causal. Specific molecular mechanisms are considered, by which 4-HNE could (i) destabilize biological systems via nontargeted reactions with cellular macromolecules and (ii) modulate signaling pathways that control longevity-assurance mechanisms.

Published by Elsevier Inc.

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