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Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 Sep 15;122(13):1431-45.

Carnosine, the anti-ageing, anti-oxidant dipeptide, may react with protein carbonyl groups.

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Division of Biomolecular Sciences, GKT School of Biomedical Sciences, King's College London, Guy's Campus, London Bridge, London SE1 1UL, UK.


Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) is a physiological dipeptide which can delay ageing and rejuvenate senescent cultured human fibroblasts. Carnosine's anti-oxidant, free radical- and metal ion-scavenging activities cannot adequately explain these effects. Previous studies showed that carnosine reacts with small carbonyl compounds (aldehydes and ketones) and protects macromolecules against their cross-linking actions. Ageing is associated with accumulation of carbonyl groups on proteins. We consider here whether carnosine reacts with protein carbonyl groups. Our evidence indicates that carnosine can react non-enzymically with protein carbonyl groups, a process termed 'carnosinylation'. We propose that similar reactions could occur in cultured fibroblasts and in vivo. A preliminary experiment suggesting that carnosine is effective in vivo is presented; it suppressed diabetes-associated increase in blood pressure in fructose-fed rats, an observation consistent with carnosine's anti-glycating actions. We speculate that: (i) carnosine's apparent anti-ageing actions result, partly, from its ability to react with carbonyl groups on glycated/oxidised proteins and other molecules; (ii) this reaction, termed 'carnosinylation,' inhibits cross-linking of glycoxidised proteins to normal macromolecules; and (iii) carnosinylation could affect the fate of glycoxidised polypeptides.

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