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Review
. 2001 Sep;36(9):1539-50.
doi: 10.1016/s0531-5565(01)00139-5.

Oxidative Stress and Protein Aggregation During Biological Aging

Affiliations
Review

Oxidative Stress and Protein Aggregation During Biological Aging

T C Squier. Exp Gerontol. .

Abstract

Biological aging is a fundamental process that represents the major risk factor with respect to the development of cancer, neurodegenerative, and cardiovascular diseases in vertebrates. It is, therefore, evident that the molecular mechanisms of aging are fundamental to understand many disease processes. In this regard, the oxidation and nitration of intracellular proteins and the formation of protein aggregates have been suggested to underlie the loss of cellular function and the reduced ability of senescent animals to withstand physiological stresses. Since oxidatively modified proteins are thermodynamically unstable and assume partially unfolded tertiary structures that readily form aggregates, it is likely that oxidized proteins are intermediates in the formation of amyloid fibrils. It is, therefore, of interest to identify oxidatively sensitive protein targets that may play a protective role through their ability to down-regulate energy metabolism and the consequent generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this respect, the maintenance of cellular calcium gradients represents a major energetic expense, which links alterations in intracellular calcium levels to ATP utilization and the associated generation of ROS through respiratory control mechanisms. The selective oxidation or nitration of the calcium regulatory proteins calmodulin and Ca-ATPase that occurs in vivo during aging and under conditions of oxidative stress may represent an adaptive response to oxidative stress that functions to down-regulate energy metabolism and the associated generation of ROS. Since these calcium regulatory proteins are also preferentially oxidized or nitrated under in vitro conditions, these results suggest an enhanced sensitivity of these critical calcium regulatory proteins, which modulate signal transduction processes and intracellular energy metabolism, to conditions of oxidative stress. Thus, the selective oxidation of critical signal transduction proteins probably represents a regulatory mechanism that functions to minimize the generation of ROS through respiratory control mechanisms. The reduction of the rate of ROS generation, in turn, will promote cellular survival under conditions of oxidative stress, when reactive oxygen and nitrogen species overwhelm cellular antioxidant defense systems, by minimizing the non-selective oxidation of a range of biomolecules. Since protein aggregation occurs if protein repair and degradative systems are unable to act upon oxidized proteins and restore cellular function, the reduction of the oxidative load on the cell by the down-regulation of the electron transport chain functions to minimize protein aggregation. Thus, ROS function as signaling molecules that fine-tune cellular metabolism through the selective oxidation or nitration of calcium regulatory proteins in order to minimize wide-spread oxidative damage and protein aggregation. Oxidative damage to cellular proteins, the loss of calcium homeostasis and protein aggregation contribute to the formation of amyloid deposits that accumulate during biological aging. Critical to understand the relationship between these processes and biological aging is the identification of oxidatively sensitive proteins that modulate energy utilization and the associated generation of ROS. In this latter respect, oxidative modifications to the calcium regulatory proteins calmodulin (CaM) and the sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca-ATPase (SERCA) function to down-regulate ATP utilization and the associated generation of ROS associated with replenishing intracellular ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. Reductions in the rate of ROS generation, in turn, will minimize protein oxidation and facilitate intracellular repair and degradative systems that function to eliminate damaged and partially unfolded proteins. Since the rates of protein repair or degradation compete with the rate of protein aggregation, the modulation of intracellular calcium concentrations and energy metabolism through the selective oxidation or nitration of critical signal transduction proteins (i.e. CaM or SERCA) is thought to maintain cellular function by minimizing protein aggregation and amyloid formation. Age-dependent increases in the rate of ROS generation or declines in cellular repair or degradation mechanisms will increase the oxidative load on the cell, resulting in corresponding increases in the concentrations of oxidized proteins and the associated formation of amyloid.

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