Protein oxidative modification in the aging organism and the role of the ubiquitin proteasomal system

Curr Pharm Des. 2011 Dec 1;17(36):4007-22. doi: 10.2174/138161211798764898.


Living in an oxygen containing environment is automatically connected to oxidative stress. Beside lipids and nucleic acids, especially proteins are very susceptible for oxidative modifications. These oxidative modifications comprise alterations of single amino acids, like the formation of protein carbonyls and methionine sulfoxide, or the aggregation of whole proteins. Due to the ongoing accumulation of protein aggregates during the aging process, the cellular protein quality control system becomes more and more overwhelmed. One essential element of the protein quality control machinery is the ubiquitin proteasomal system which plays therefore a crucial part in the aging process, too. Ubiquitination of proteins is a three step mechanism to tag proteins with a polyubiquitin chain for the proteasome. The proteasome is a regulated, barrel-shaped multi-enzyme complex which is responsible for the degradation of proteins. Although there is no drastic loss of all proteasomal subunits during the aging process, there is a functional decline of the proteasome activity in aging organisms. Impairment of the ubiquitin proteasome system leads to increasing protein aggregation and cellular death. A lot of age related diseases are closely connected to an inhibition of the proteasome and the formation of large protein aggregates. Especially skin aging, atherosclerosis, age-dependent macula degeneration, cataract formation and several neurodegenerative diseases are directly connected to the decline of proteasome function. This review outlines the connections between aging, oxidative stress and protein oxidation, as well as the influence on the ubiquitin proteasomal system and several associated diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Eye Diseases / metabolism
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methionine / analogs & derivatives
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / physiology*
  • Protein Carbonylation
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Skin Aging
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism
  • Ubiquitins / physiology*


  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Ubiquitins
  • Methionine
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • methionine sulfoxide