Carnosine (b-alanyl-L-histidine) is an endogenous dipeptide widely distributed in excitable tissues, such as muscle and neural tissues-though in minor concentrations in the latter. Multiple benefits have been attributed to carnosine: direct and indirect antioxidant effect, antiglycating, metal-chelating, chaperone and pH-buffering activity. Thus, carnosine turns out to be a multipotent protector against oxidative damage. However, the role of carnosine in the brain remains unclear. The key aspects concerning carnosine in the brain reviewed are as follows: its concentration and bioavailability, mechanisms of action in neuronal and glial cells, beneficial effects in human studies. Recent literature data and the results of our own research are summarized here. This review covers studies of carnosine effects on both in vitro and in vivo models of cerebral damage, such as neurodegenerative disorders and ischemic injuries and the data on its physiological actions on neuronal signaling and cerebral functions. Besides its antioxidant and homeostatic properties, new potential roles of carnosine in the brain are discussed.
Keywords: Brain; Carnosine; Ischemia; Neuromodulation; Neuroprotective effect; Oxidative stress.