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Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Mar;56:89-101. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2012.11.010. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

Aldehyde dehydrogenases in cellular responses to oxidative/electrophilic stress.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are continuously generated within living systems and the inability to manage ROS load leads to elevated oxidative stress and cell damage. Oxidative stress is coupled to the oxidative degradation of lipid membranes, also known as lipid peroxidation. This process generates over 200 types of aldehydes, many of which are highly reactive and toxic. Aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs) metabolize endogenous and exogenous aldehydes and thereby mitigate oxidative/electrophilic stress in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. ALDHs are found throughout the evolutionary gamut, from single-celled organisms to complex multicellular species. Not surprisingly, many ALDHs in evolutionarily distant, and seemingly unrelated, species perform similar functions, including protection against a variety of environmental stressors such as dehydration and ultraviolet radiation. The ability to act as an "aldehyde scavenger" during lipid peroxidation is another ostensibly universal ALDH function found across species. Upregulation of ALDHs is a stress response in bacteria (environmental and chemical stress), plants (dehydration, salinity, and oxidative stress), yeast (ethanol exposure and oxidative stress), Caenorhabditis elegans (lipid peroxidation), and mammals (oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation). Recent studies have also identified ALDH activity as an important feature of cancer stem cells. In these cells, ALDH expression helps abrogate oxidative stress and imparts resistance against chemotherapeutic agents such as oxazaphosphorine, taxane, and platinum drugs. The ALDH superfamily represents a fundamentally important class of enzymes that contributes significantly to the management of electrophilic/oxidative stress within living systems. Mutations in various ALDHs are associated with a variety of pathological conditions in humans, highlighting the fundamental importance of these enzymes in physiological and pathological processes.

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