Oxidative damage to RNA: mechanisms, consequences, and diseases

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Jun;67(11):1817-29. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0277-y. Epub 2010 Feb 11.


Overproduction of free radicals can damage cellular components resulting in progressive physiological dysfunction, which has been implicated in many human diseases. Oxidative damage to RNA received little attention until the past decade. Recent studies indicate that RNA, such as messenger RNA and ribosomal RNA, is very vulnerable to oxidative damage. RNA oxidation is not a consequence of dying cells but an early event involved in pathogenesis. Oxidative modification to RNA results in disturbance of the translational process and impairment of protein synthesis, which can cause cell deterioration or even cell death. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms of oxidative damage to RNA and the possible biological consequences of damaged RNA. Furthermore, we review recent evidence suggesting that oxidative damage to RNA may contribute to progression of many human diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / etiology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism


  • Free Radicals
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA