RNA oxidation in Alzheimer disease and related neurodegenerative disorders

Acta Neuropathol. 2009 Jul;118(1):151-66. doi: 10.1007/s00401-009-0508-1. Epub 2009 Mar 7.


RNA oxidation and its biological effects are less well studied compared to DNA oxidation. However, RNA may be more susceptible to oxidative insults than DNA, for RNA is largely single-stranded and its bases are not protected by hydrogen bonding and less protected by specific proteins. Also, cellular RNA locates in the vicinity of mitochondria, the primary source of reactive oxygen species. Oxidative modification can occur not only in protein-coding RNAs, but also in non-coding RNAs that have been recently revealed to contribute towards the complexity of the mammalian brain. Damage to coding and non-coding RNAs will cause errors in proteins and disturbances in the regulation of gene expression. While less lethal than mutations in the genome and not inheritable, such sublethal damage to cells might be associated with underlying mechanisms of degeneration, especially age-associated neurodegeneration that is commonly found in the elderly population. Indeed, oxidative RNA damage has been described recently in most of the common neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Of particular interest, the accumulating evidence obtained from studies on either human samples or experimental models coincidentally suggests that oxidative RNA damage is a feature in vulnerable neurons at early-stage of these neurodegenerative disorders, indicating that RNA oxidation actively contributes to the onset or the development of the disorders. Further investigations aimed at understanding of the processing mechanisms related to oxidative RNA damage and its consequences may provide significant insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders and lead to better therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Guanosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Guanosine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia, Brain / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • Guanosine
  • 8-hydroxyguanosine
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1