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J Biol Chem. 2013 Sep 27;288(39):28163-79. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.504753. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Role of aldose reductase in the metabolism and detoxification of carnosine-acrolein conjugates.

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  • 1From the Diabetes and Obesity Center.


Oxidation of unsaturated lipids generates reactive aldehydes that accumulate in tissues during inflammation, ischemia, or aging. These aldehydes form covalent adducts with histidine-containing dipeptides such as carnosine and anserine, which are present in high concentration in skeletal muscle, heart, and brain. The metabolic pathways involved in the detoxification and elimination of these conjugates are, however, poorly defined, and their significance in regulating oxidative stress is unclear. Here we report that conjugates of carnosine with aldehydes such as acrolein are produced during normal metabolism and excreted in the urine of mice and adult human non-smokers as carnosine-propanols. Our studies show that the reduction of carnosine-propanals is catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase (AR). Carnosine-propanals were converted to carnosine-propanols in the lysates of heart, skeletal muscle, and brain tissue from wild-type (WT) but not AR-null mice. In comparison with WT mice, the urinary excretion of carnosine-propanols was decreased in AR-null mice. Carnosine-propanals formed covalent adducts with nucleophilic amino acids leading to the generation of carnosinylated proteins. Deletion of AR increased the abundance of proteins bound to carnosine in skeletal muscle, brain, and heart of aged mice and promoted the accumulation of carnosinylated proteins in hearts subjected to global ischemia ex vivo. Perfusion with carnosine promoted post-ischemic functional recovery in WT but not in AR-null mouse hearts. Collectively, these findings reveal a previously unknown metabolic pathway for the removal of carnosine-propanal conjugates and suggest a new role of AR as a critical regulator of protein carnosinylation and carnosine-mediated tissue protection.


Brain Metabolism; Cardiac Metabolism; Ischemia; Metabolism; Post Translational Modification; Protein Chemical Modification; Protein Cross-linking; Skeletal Muscle

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