Oxidative stress and apoptosis

Pathophysiology. 2000 Sep;7(3):153-163. doi: 10.1016/s0928-4680(00)00053-5.


Apoptosis or programmed cell death, is essential for the normal functioning and survival of most multi-cellular organisms. The morphological and biochemical characteristics of apoptosis, however, are highly conserved during the evolution. It is currently believed that apoptosis can be divided into at least three functionally distinct phases, i.e. induction, effector and execution phase. Recent studies have demonstrated that reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the resulting oxidative stress play a pivotal role in apoptosis. Antioxidants and thiol reductants, such as N-acetylcysteine, and overexpression of manganese superoxide (MnSOD) can block or delay apoptosis. Bcl-2, an endogenously produced protein, has been shown to prevent cells from dying of apoptosis apparently by an antioxidative mechanism. Taken together ROS, and the resulting cellular redox change, can be part of signal transduction pathway during apoptosis. It is now established that mitochondria play a prominent role in apoptosis. During mitochondrial dysfunction, several essential players of apoptosis, including pro-caspases, cytochrome C, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), and apoptotic protease-activating factor-1 (APAF-1) are released into the cytosol. The multimeric complex formation of cytochrome C, APAF-1 and caspase 9 activates downstream caspases leading to apoptotic cell death. All the three functional phases of apoptosis are under the influence of regulatory controls. Thus, increasing evidences provide support that oxidative stress and apoptosis are closely linked physiological phenomena and are implicated in pathophysiology of some of the chronic diseases including AIDS, autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and ischemia of heart and brain.