NADPH oxidases of the brain: distribution, regulation, and function

Antioxid Redox Signal. Sep-Oct 2006;8(9-10):1583-96. doi: 10.1089/ars.2006.8.1583.


The NADPH oxidase is a multi-subunit enzyme that catalyzes the reduction of molecular oxygen to form superoxide (O(2)(-)). While classically linked to the respiratory burst in neutrophils, recent evidence now shows that O(2)(-) (and associated reactive oxygen species, ROS) generated by NADPH oxidase in nonphagocytic cells serves myriad functions in health and disease. An entire new family of NADPH Oxidase (Nox) homologues has emerged, which vary widely in cell and tissue distribution, as well as in function and regulation. A major concept in redox signaling is that while NADPH oxidase-derived ROS are necessary for normal cellular function, excessive oxidative stress can contribute to pathological disease. This certainly is true in the central nervous system (CNS), where normal NADPH oxidase function appears to be required for processes such as neuronal signaling, memory, and central cardiovascular homeostasis, but overproduction of ROS contributes to neurotoxicity, neurodegeneration, and cardiovascular diseases. Despite implications of NADPH oxidase in normal and pathological CNS processes, still relatively little is known about the mechanisms involved. This paper summarizes the evidence for NADPH oxidase distribution, regulation, and function in the CNS, emphasizing the diversity of Nox isoforms and their new and emerging role in neuro-cardiovascular function. In addition, perspectives for future research and novel therapeutic targets are offered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin II / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / enzymology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System / enzymology
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / enzymology
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Angiotensin II
  • NADPH Oxidases