Molecular insights of NADPH oxidases and its pathological consequences

Cell Biochem Funct. 2021 Mar;39(2):218-234. doi: 10.1002/cbf.3589. Epub 2020 Sep 25.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS), formed by the partial reduction of oxygen, were for a long time considered to be a byproduct of cellular metabolism. Since, increase in cellular levels of ROS results in oxidative stress leading to damage of nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids resulting in numerous pathological conditions; ROS was considered a bane for aerobic species. Hence, the discovery of NADPH oxidases (NOX), an enzyme family that specifically generates ROS as its prime product came as a surprise to redox biologists. NOX family proteins participate in various cellular functions including cell proliferation and differentiation, regulation of genes and protein expression, apoptosis, and host defence immunological response. Balanced expression and activation of NOX with subsequent production of ROS are critically important to regulate various genes and proteins to maintain homeostasis of the cell. However, dysregulation of NOX activation leading to enhanced ROS levels is associated with various pathophysiologies including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, ageing, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Although our current knowledge on NOX signifies its importance in the normal functioning of various cellular pathways; yet the choice of ROS producing enzymes which can tip the scale from homeostasis toward damage, as mediators of biological functions remain an oddity. Though the role of NOX in maintaining normal cellular functions is now deemed essential, yet its dysregulation leading to catastrophic events cannot be denied. Hence, this review focuses on the involvement of NOX enzymes in various pathological conditions imploring them as possible targets for therapies. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY: The NOXs are multi-subunit enzymes that generate ROS as a prime product. NOX generated ROS are usually regulated by various molecular factors and play a vital role in different physiological processes. The dysregulation of NOX activity is associated with pathological consequences. Recently, the dynamic proximity of NOX enzymes with different molecular signatures of pathologies has been studied extensively. It is essential to identify the precise role of NOX machinery in its niche during the progression of pathology. Although inhibition of NOX could be a promising approach for therapeutic interventions, it is critical to expand the current understanding of NOX's dynamicity and shed light on their molecular partners and regulators.

Keywords: Cancer; Inflammation; NADPH oxidase; Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetophenones / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes / classification
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • NADPH Oxidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NADPH Oxidases / classification
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Acetophenones
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • acetovanillone
  • NADPH Oxidases