Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) are defined as cell signaling enzymes that catalyze the transfer of ADP-ribose units from NAD(+)to a number of acceptor proteins. PARP-1, the best characterized member of the PARP family, that presently includes six members, is an abundant nuclear enzyme implicated in cellular responses to DNA injury provoked by genotoxic stress (oxygen radicals, ionizing radiations and monofunctional alkylating agents). Due to its involvement either in DNA repair or in cell death, PARP-1 is regarded as a double-edged regulator of cellular functions. In fact, when the DNA damage is moderate, PARP-1 participates in the DNA repair process. Conversely, in the case of massive DNA injury, elevated PARP-1 activation leads to rapid NAD(+)/ATP consumption and cell death by necrosis. Excessive PARP-1 activity has been implicated in the pathogenesis of numerous clinical conditions such as stroke, myocardial infarction, shock, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. PARP-1 could therefore be considered as a potential target for the development of pharmacological strategies to enhance the antitumor efficacy of radio- and chemotherapy or to treat a number of clinical conditions characterized by oxidative or NO-induced stress and consequent PARP-1 activation. Moreover, the discovery of novel functions for the multiple members of the PARP family might lead in the future to additional clinical indications for PARP inhibitors.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.