Free radicals and polyphenols: The redox chemistry of neurodegenerative diseases

Eur J Med Chem. 2017 Jun 16;133:379-402. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2017.03.061. Epub 2017 Mar 29.


The oxidation of bioorganic materials by air and, particularly, the oxidative stress involved in the cell loss and other pathologies associated with neurodegenerative diseases (NDs) are of enormous social and economic importance. NDs generally involve free radical reactions, beginning with the formation of an initiating radical by some redox, thermal or photochemical process, causing nucleic acid, protein and lipid oxidations and the production of harmful oxidative products. Physically, persons afflicted by NDs suffer progressive loss of memory and thinking ability, mood swings, personality changes, and loss of independence. Therefore, the development of antioxidant strategies to retard or minimize the oxidative degradation of bioorganic materials has been, and still is, of paramount importance. While we are aware of the importance of investigating the biological and medical aspects of the diseases, elucidation of the associated chemistry is crucial to understanding their progression, heading to intelligent chemical intervention to find more efficient therapies to prevent or delay the onset of the diseases. Accordingly, this review aims to provide the reader with a chemical base to understand the behavior and properties of the reactive oxygen species involved and of typical radical scavengers such as polyphenolic antioxidants. Some discussion on the structures of the various species, their formation, chemical reactivities and lifetimes is included. The ultimate goal is to understand how, when and where they form, how far they travel prior to react, which molecules are their targets, and how we can, eventually, control their activity to minimize their impact by means of chemical methods. Recent strategies explore chemical modifications of the hydrophobicity of potent, natural antioxidants to improve their efficiency by fine-tuning their concentrations at the reaction site.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Neurodegenerative diseases; Polyphenols; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Free Radicals / chemistry
  • Free Radicals / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Polyphenols / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Free Radicals
  • Polyphenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species