Mitochondrial Dysfunction during Brain Aging: Role of Oxidative Stress and Modulation by Antioxidant Supplementation

Aging Dis. 2011 Jun;2(3):242-56. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are two interdependent and reinforcing damage mechanisms that play a central role in brain aging. Oxidative stress initiated and propagated by active oxyradicals and various other free radicals in the presence of catalytic metal ions not only can damage the phospholipid, protein and DNA molecules within the cell but can also modulate cell signalling pathways and gene expression pattern and all these processes may be of critical importance in the aging of brain. The present article describes the mechanism of formation of reactive oxyradicals within mitochondria and then explains how these can initiate mitochondrial biogenesis program and activate various transcriptional factors in the cytosol to boost up the antioxidative capacity of the mitochondria and the cell. However, a high level of oxidative stress finally inflicts critical damage to the oxidative phosphorylation machinery and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The latter part of the article is a catalogue showing the accumulating evidence in favour of oxidative inactivation of mitochondrial functions in aged brain and the detailed reports of various studies with antioxidant supplementation claiming variable success in preventing the age-related brain mitochondrial decay and cognitive decline. The antioxidant supplementation approach may be of potential help in the management of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. The newly developed mitochondria-targeted antioxidants have brought a new direction to experimental studies related to oxidative damage and they may provide potential drugs in near future for a variety of diseases or degenerative conditions including brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders.

Keywords: Mitochondria; aging; antioxidants; mitochondrial biogenesis; reactive oxygen species; redox protein.