This review is centered on the antioxidant enzyme catalase and will present different aspects of this particular protein. Among them: historical discovery, biological functions, types of catalases and recent data with regard to molecular mechanisms regulating its expression. The main goal is to understand the biological consequences of chronic exposure of cells to hydrogen peroxide leading to cellular adaptation. Such issues are of the utmost importance with potential therapeutic extrapolation for various pathologies. Catalase is a key enzyme in the metabolism of H2O2 and reactive nitrogen species, and its expression and localization is markedly altered in tumors. The molecular mechanisms regulating the expression of catalase, the oldest known and first discovered antioxidant enzyme, are not completely elucidated. As cancer cells are characterized by an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and a rather altered expression of antioxidant enzymes, these characteristics represent an advantage in terms of cell proliferation. Meanwhile, they render cancer cells particularly sensitive to an oxidant insult. In this context, targeting the redox status of cancer cells by modulating catalase expression is emerging as a novel approach to potentiate chemotherapy.
Keywords: antioxidant enzyme; cancer; catalase; catalase regulation; hydrogen peroxide; pro-oxidant therapy.