The cytotoxic mechanism of malondialdehyde and protective effect of carnosine via protein cross-linking/mitochondrial dysfunction/reactive oxygen species/MAPK pathway in neurons

Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Jan 10;650(1):184-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2010.09.033. Epub 2010 Sep 21.


The accumulation of malondialdehyde (MDA), a lipid peroxidation by-product that has been used as an indicator of cellular oxidation status, is significantly increased in many neurological diseases such as brain ischemia/reperfusion, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease in vivo. In the present study, we found that MDA treatment in vitro reduced cortical neuronal viability in a time- and dose-dependent manner and induced cellular apoptosis as well as necrosis simultaneously. Furthermore, exposure to MDA led to accumulation of intracellular reactive oxygen species, dysfunction of mitochondria (denoted by the loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (Δψm)) and activation of JNK and ERK. Carnosine exhibited better protection against MDA-induced cell injury than antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) with its multi-potency, which alleviated MDA-induced protein cross-linking, Δψm decrease, reactive oxygen species burst, JNK and ERK activation. In conclusion, our results suggest that MDA induced cell injury in vitro via protein cross-linking and successive mitochondrial dysfunction, and the activation of reactive oxygen species-dependent MAPK signaling pathway. Carnosine alleviated all these alterations induced by MDA, but NAC merely inhibited Bcl-2 family-related activation of JNK and ERK. These results prompt the possibility that carnosine, but not other conventional antioxidants, can protect neurons against MDA-induced injury through decomposition of protein cross-linking toxicity and may serve as a novel agent in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carnosine / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / toxicity
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects*
  • Malondialdehyde / toxicity*
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Carnosine