Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 153-169

First online:

Neurotoxicity due to o-Quinones: Neuromelanin formation and possible mechanisms for o-Quinone detoxification

  • Francisco SolanoAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology B and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Murcia Email author 
  • , Vincent J. HearingAffiliated withLaboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, NIH
  • , Jose C. García-BorrónAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology B and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Murcia

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o-Quinones are easily formed by oxidation of physiologically relevant catechols. These reactions mainly occur in two specialized cells, catecholaminergic neurons and melanocytes. Both types of cells are related ontogenetically, as they arise from the neural crest during the developmental differentiation. o-Quinones are used to form melanin, a protective pigment formed by different mechanisms in melanocytes and catecholaminergic neurons. However, the reactivity of these quinones makes their presence in the cytosol dangerous for the cell survival and these compounds have been proposed as degenerative and apoptotic agents. Thus, melanin-producing cells show several potential mechanisms to protect themselves against the noxious effects of o-quinones. In melanocytes, the most effective autoprotecting mechanisms are the existence of melanosomes as a confined site for melano-synthesis and the action of tyrosinase related protein 2 (TRP2) to derive L-dopachrome to 5,6-dihydroxy-indole-2-carboxylic acid minimizing the formation of 5,6-dihydroxyindole. In catecholaminergic neurons, recent data suggest that glutathione transferase (GST M2-2 isoenzyme) and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) are very effective in preventing long-lived formation of dopaminechrome and nora-drenochrome, although the detoxification reactions are different (conjugation to GSH or isomerization respectively). These mechanisms are less efficient for adrenochrome, although MIF and GST M1-1 could also catalyze similar reactions using this compound as substrate. In addition, the formation of adrenochrome is still under discussion, and adrenolutin formation could contribute to deactivate its harmful effects. The contribution of D-dopachrome tautomerase to these mechanisms is yet unknown, although in contrast to MIF, that enzyme does not recognize cate-cholaminechromes as substrates. Diaphorase could also be protective against quinones, since this enzyme catalyzes their bielectronic reduction back to catechols, thus preventing the formation of chrome species. This activity has been described in melanocytes and neurons, so that its contribution should be further investigated. In contrast to diaphorase, cytochrome P450 reductase should not be considered a protective enzyme, since its monoelectronic reduction of quinones leads to formation of semiquinones, that is even more noxious than the quinones.


o-Quinone Neurotoxicity Neuromelanin Detoxification Dopaquinone Dopachrome Catecholamines Catecholaminechromes