Activation of endogenous antioxidants as a common therapeutic strategy against cancer, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular diseases: A lesson learnt from DJ-1

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Abstract

This review aims at presenting a new concept pertaining to the development of antioxidants, namely, to evolve from disease-oriented therapy to mechanism-oriented therapy. Using as our illustrative example is DJ-1, a homodimeric protein that is ubiquitously expressed in a variety of mammalian tissues, including the brain, and is found in the matrix and the intermembrane space of the mitochondria. DJ-1 is known to be an endogenous antioxidant against cancer, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular diseases, of which oxidative stress plays a causal role. Interestingly, the mechanistic targets of DJ-1 as an antioxidant, including Daxx, Nrf2, thioredoxin, glutathione, α-synuclein, PTEN/PI3K/Akt, and Pink/Parkin are also associated with those oxidative stress-related diseases. Furthermore, activators of DJ-1 are available in the form of mortalin, phenylbutyrate and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1. It follows that activation of DJ-1 as a common endogenous antioxidant provides a new strategy against cancer, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular diseases. Since clinical trials on exogenous application of the known antioxidants have basically failed, an alternative approach would logically be to activate the endogenous antioxidants that are already present in the appropriate cellular locale where elevated oxidative stress is the culprit for the disease. At the same time, since oxidative stress is a common denominator among cancer, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular diseases, development of antioxidant therapy should target the reduction in reactive oxygen species. Instead of focusing on disease-oriented therapy, pharmaceutical companies should concentrate on developing agents and dosing schemes for effective activation of the endogenous antioxidants that are associated with a multitude of oxidative stress-related diseases (mechanism-oriented therapy).

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