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Free Radic Biol Med. 2015 Nov;88(Pt A):70-80. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.02.021. Epub 2015 Feb 28.

Oxidative stress and mechanisms of ochronosis in alkaptonuria.

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Dipartimento di Biotecnologie, Chimica e Farmacia, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy.
Dipartimento di Biotecnologie, Chimica e Farmacia, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy. Electronic address:


Alkaptonuria (AKU) is a rare metabolic disease due to a deficient activity of the enzyme homogentisate 1,2-dioxygenase (HGD), involved in Phe and Tyr catabolism. Due to such a deficiency, AKU patients undergo accumulation of the metabolite homogentisic acid (HGA), which is prone to oxidation/polymerization reactions causing the production of a melanin-like pigment. Once the pigment is deposited onto connective tissues (mainly in joints, spine, and cardiac valves), a classical bluish-brown discoloration is imparted, leading to a phenomenon known as "ochronosis", the hallmark of AKU. A clarification of the molecular mechanisms for the production and deposition of the ochronotic pigment in AKU started only recently with a range of in vitro and ex vivo human models used for the study of HGA-induced effects. Thanks to redox-proteomic analyses, it was found that HGA could induce significant oxidation of a number of serum and chondrocyte proteins. Further investigations allowed highlighting how HGA-induced proteome alteration, lipid peroxidation, thiol depletion, and amyloid production could contribute to oxidative stress generation and protein oxidation in AKU. This review briefly summarizes the most recent findings on HGA-induced oxidative stress in AKU, helping in the clarification of the molecular mechanisms of ochronosis and potentially providing the basis for its pharmacological treatment. Future work should be undertaken in order to validate in vivo the results so far obtained in in vitro AKU models.


Amyloid; Homogentisic acid; Lipid peroxidation; Protein carbonyls; Proteomics; Redox proteomics; Serum amyloid A; Thiol oxidation

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