Is alpha-lipoic acid a scavenger of reactive oxygen species in vivo? Evidence for its initiation of stress signaling pathways that promote endogenous antioxidant capacity

IUBMB Life. 2008 Jun;60(6):362-7. doi: 10.1002/iub.40.


The chemical reduction and oxidation (redox) properties of alpha-lipoic acid (LA) suggest that it may have potent antioxidant potential. A significant number of studies now show that LA and its reduced form, dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), directly scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) species and protect cells against a host of insults where oxidative stress is part of the underlying etiology. However, owing to its limited and transient accumulation in tissues following oral intake, the efficacy of nonprotein-bound LA to function as a physiological antioxidant has been questioned. Herein, we review the evidence that the micronutrient functions of LA may be more as an effector of important cellular stress response pathways that ultimately influence endogenous cellular antioxidant levels and reduce proinflammatory mechanisms. This would promote a sustained improvement in cellular resistance to pathologies where oxidative stress is involved, which would not be forthcoming if LA solely acted as a transient ROS scavenger.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Models, Chemical
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Thioctic Acid / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • NF-kappa B
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thioctic Acid
  • Glutathione