Author(s): Sohal RS, Orr WC
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Abstract The main objective of this review is to examine the role of endogenous reactive oxygen/nitrogen species (ROS) in the aging process. Until relatively recently, ROS were considered to be potentially toxic by-products of aerobic metabolism, which, if not eliminated, may inflict structural damage on various macromolecules. Accrual of such damage over time was postulated to be responsible for the physiological deterioration in the postreproductive phase of life and eventually the death of the organism. This "structural damage-based oxidative stress" hypothesis has received support from the age-associated increases in the rate of ROS production and the steady-state amounts of oxidized macromolecules; however, there are increasing indications that structural damage alone is insufficient to satisfactorily explain the age-associated functional losses. The level of oxidative damage accrued during aging often does not match the magnitude of functional losses. Although experimental augmentation of antioxidant defenses tends to enhance resistance to induced oxidative stress, such manipulations are generally ineffective in the extension of life span of long-lived strains of animals. More recently, in a major conceptual shift, ROS have been found to be physiologically vital for signal transduction, gene regulation, and redox regulation, among others, implying that their complete elimination would be harmful. An alternative notion, advocated here, termed the "redox stress hypothesis," proposes that aging-associated functional losses are primarily caused by a progressive pro-oxidizing shift in the redox state of the cells, which leads to the overoxidation of redox-sensitive protein thiols and the consequent disruption of the redox-regulated signaling mechanisms. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Free Radic Biol Med
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research