Free radicals and aging

Trends Neurosci. 2004 Oct;27(10):595-600. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2004.07.005.


Aging is characterized by decrements in maximum function and accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations, which are best observed in organs such as the brain that contain post-mitotic cells. Oxygen radicals are increasingly considered responsible for part of these aging changes. Comparative studies of animals with different aging rates have shown that the rate of mitochondrial oxygen radical generation is directly related to the steady-state level of oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA and is inversely correlated with maximum longevity in higher vertebrates. The degree of unsaturation of tissue fatty acids also correlates inversely with maximum longevity. These are the two known traits connecting oxidative stress with aging. Furthermore, caloric restriction, which decreases the rate of aging, proportionately decreases mitochondrial oxygen radical generation, especially at complex I. These findings are reviewed, highlighting the results obtained in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species