Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by a gradual and selective loss of neurons. ROS overload has been proved to occur early in this heterogeneous group of disorders, indicating oxidative stress as a primer factor underlying their pathogenesis. Given the importance of a better knowledge of the cause/effect of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis and evolution of neurodegeneration, recent efforts have been focused on the identification and determination of stable markers that may reflect systemic oxidative stress. This review provides an overview of these systemic redox biomarkers and their responsiveness to antioxidant therapies. Redox biomarkers can be classified as molecules that are modified by interactions with ROS in the microenvironment and antioxidant molecules that change in response to increased oxidative stress. DNA, lipids (including phospholipids), proteins and carbohydrates are examples of molecules that can be modified by excessive ROS in vivo. Some modifications have direct effects on molecule functions (e.g. to inhibit enzyme function), but others merely reflect the degree of oxidative stress in the local environment. Testing of redox biomarkers in neurodegenerative diseases has 3 important goals: 1) to confirm the presence or absence of systemic oxidative stress; 2) to identify possible underlying (and potentially reversible) causes of neurodegeneration; and 3) to estimate the severity of the disease and the risk of progression. Reflecting pathological processes occurring in the whole body, redox biomarkers may pinpoint novel therapeutic targets and lead to diagnose diseases before they are clinically evident.
Keywords: Antioxidants; antioxidant enzymes, dietary antioxidants, glutathione, oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases, protein glutathionylation, protein oxidation.