Dopamine (DA) has been implicated as an endogenous neurotoxin to explain the selective neurodegeneration as observed for Parkinson's disease (PD). In addition, oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation are hypothesized culprits in PD pathogenesis. DA undergoes catabolism by monoamine oxidase (MAO) to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL), which is further oxidized to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) via aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). As a minor and compensatory metabolic pathway, DOPAL can be reduced to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethanol (DOPET) via cytosolic aldehyde or aldose reductase (AR). Previous studies have found DOPAL to be significantly more toxic to DA cells than DA and that the major lipid peroxidation products, that is, 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE) and malondialdehyde (MDA), potently inhibit DOPAL oxidation via ALDH. The hypothesis of this work is that lipid peroxidation products inhibit DOPAL oxidation, yielding aberrant levels of the toxic aldehyde intermediate. To test this hypothesis, nerve growth factor-differentiated PC6-3 cells were used as a model for DA neurons. Cell viability in the presence of 4HNE and MDA (2-100 microM) was measured by MTT assay, and it was found that only 100 microM 4HNE exhibited significant cytotoxicity. Treatment of cells with varying concentrations of 4HNE and MDA resulted in reduced DOPAC production and significant elevation of DOPAL levels, suggesting inhibition of ALDH. In cells treated with 4HNE that exhibited elevated DOPAL, there was a significant increase in DOPET. However, elevated DOPET was not observed for the cells treated with MDA, suggesting MDA to be an inhibitor of AR. Using isolated cytosolic AR, it was found that MDA but not 4HNE inhibited reductase activity toward DOPAL, surprisingly. These data demonstrate that the oxidative stress products 4HNE and MDA inhibit the aldehyde biotransformation step of DA catabolism yielding elevated levels of the endogenous neurotoxin DOPAL, which may link oxidative stress to selective neurodegeneration as seen in PD.