Lipid peroxidation and biogenic aldehydes: from the identification of 4-hydroxynonenal to further achievements in biopathology

Free Radic Res. 1998 Jun;28(6):623-35. doi: 10.3109/10715769809065818.


The formation, reactivity and toxicity of aldehydes originating from lipid peroxidation of cellular membranes are reviewed. Very reactive aldehydes, namely 4-hydroxyalkenals, were first shown to be formed in autoxidizing chemical systems. It was subsequently shown that 4-hydroxyalkenals are formed in biological conditions, i.e. during lipid peroxidation of liver microsomes incubated in the NADPH-Fe systems. Our studies carried out in collaboration with Hermann Esterbauer which led to the identification of 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) are reported. 4-HNE was the most cytotoxic aldehyde and was then assumed as a model molecule of oxidative stress. Many other aldehydes (alkanals, alk-2-enals and dicarbonyl compounds) were then identified in peroxidizing liver microsomes or hepatocytes. The in vivo formation of aldehydes in liver of animals intoxicated with agents that promote lipid peroxidation was shown in further studies. In a first study, evidence was forwarded for aldehydes (very likely alkenals) bound to liver microsomal proteins of CCl4 or BrCCl3-intoxicated rats. In a second study, 4-HNE and a number of other aldehydes (alkanals and alkenals) were identified in the free (non-protein bound) form in liver extracts from bromobenzene or allyl alcohol-poisoned mice. The detection of free 4-HNE in the liver of CCl(4) or BrCC1(3)-poisoned animals was obtained with the use of an electrochemical detector, which greatly increased the sensitivity of the HPLC method. Furthermore, membrane phospholipids bearing carbonyl groups were demonstrated in both in vitro (incubation of microsomes with NADPH-Fe) and in vivo (CC1(4) or BrCCl(3) intoxication) conditions. Finally, the results concerned with the histochemical detection of lipid peroxidation are reported. The methods used were based on the detection of lipid peroxidation-derived carbonyls. Very good results were obtained with the use of fluorescent reagents for carbonyls, in particular with 3-hydroxy-2-naphtoic acid hydrazide (NAH) and analysis with confocal scanning fluorescence microscopy with image video analysis. The significance of formation of toxic aldehydes in biological membranes is discussed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / analysis*
  • Aldehydes / chemistry
  • Aldehydes / history
  • Aldehydes / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biochemistry / history
  • Histocytochemistry / methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Oxidants / toxicity
  • Pathology, Clinical / trends


  • Aldehydes
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Oxidants
  • 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal