Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 197–233 | Cite as

Reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species: Relevance to cyto(neuro)toxic events and neurologic disorders. An overview

  • Diana Metodiewa
  • Czesław Kośka


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are formed under physiological conditions in the human body and are removed by cellular antioxidant defense systems. During oxidative stress their increased formation leads to tissue damage and cell death. This process may be especially important in the central nervous system (CNS) which is vulnerable to ROS and RNS damage as the result of high O2 consumption, high lipid content and the relatively low antioxidant defenses in brain, compared with other tissues.

Recently there has been an increased number of reports suggesting the involvement of free radicals and their non-radical derivatives in a variety of pathological events and multistage disorders including neurotoxicity, apoptotic death of neurons, and neural disorders: Alzheimer’s (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and schizophrenia. Taking into consideration the basic molecular chemistry of ROS and RNS, their overall generation and location, in order to control or supress their action it is essential to understand the fundamental aspects of this problem. In this presentation we review and summarize the basics of all the recently known and important properties, mechanisms, molecular targets, possible involvement in cellular (neural) degeneration and apoptotic death and in pathogenesis of AD, PD and schizophrenia.

The aim of this article is to provide an overview of our current knowledge of this problem and to inspire experimental strategies for the evaluation of optimum innovative therapeutic trials. Another purpose of this work is to shed some light on one of the most exciting recent advances in our understanding of the CNS: the realisation that RNS pathway is highly relevant to normal brain metabolism and to neurologic disorders as well. The interactions of RNS and ROS, their interconversions and the ratio of RNS/ROS could be an important neural tissue injury mechanism(s) involved into etiology and pathogenesis of AD, PD and schizophrenia.

It might be possible to direct therapeutic efforts at oxidative events in the pathway of neuronal degeneration and apoptotic death. From reviewed data, no single substance can be recommended for use in human studies. Some of the recent therapeutic strategies and neuroprotective trials need further development particularly those of antioxidants enhancement. Such an approach should also consider using combinations of radical(s) scavengers rather than a single substance.


ROS RNS Oxidative stress Neurologic disorders Therapeutic strategies 


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© OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Applied Radiation ChemistryTechnical University of ŁódżŁódżPoland

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