Carnosine and carnosine-related antioxidants: a review

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(20):2293-315. doi: 10.2174/0929867054864796.


First isolated and characterized in 1900 by Gulewitsch, carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-hystidine) is a dipeptide commonly present in mammalian tissue, and in particular in skeletal muscle cells; it is responsible for a variety of activities related to the detoxification of the body from free radical species and the by-products of membrane lipids peroxidation, but recent studies have shown that this small molecule also has membrane-protecting activity, proton buffering capacity, formation of complexes with transition metals, and regulation of macrophage function. It has been proposed that carnosine could act as a natural scavenger of dangerous reactive aldehydes from the degradative oxidative pathway of endogenous molecules such as sugars, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and proteins. In particular, it has been recently demonstrated that carnosine is a potent and selective scavenger of alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes, typical by-products of membrane lipids peroxidation and considered second messengers of the oxidative stress, and inhibits aldehyde-induced protein-protein and DNA-protein cross-linking in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, in cardiovascular ischemic damage, in inflammatory diseases. The research for new and more potent scavengers for HNE and other alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes has produced a consistent variety of carnosine analogs, and the present review will resume, through the scientific literature and the international patents, the most recent developments in this field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants* / chemistry
  • Antioxidants* / metabolism
  • Carnosine* / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnosine* / chemistry
  • Carnosine* / metabolism
  • Dipeptidases / metabolism
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Aldehydes
  • Antioxidants
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • N-acetylcarnosine
  • Carnosine
  • Dipeptidases
  • aminoacyl-histidine dipeptidase