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Copper is dangerous when it is present in excess, mainly because it can participate in the Fenton reaction, which produces radical species. As a consequence of copper pollution, people are involuntarily exposed to a copper overload under sub-clinical and sub-symptomatological conditions, which may be very difficult to detect. Thus, we investigated (i) the possible use of the chelator molecules carnosine and neocuproine to prevent the Cu overload-induced damage on cellular lipids and proteins, as tested in human cell culture systems, and (ii) the differential response of these two chelating agents in relation to their protective action, and the type of copper ion involved in the process, by using two types of human cultured cells (HepG2 and A-549). Cu treatment clearly enhanced (p<0.01) the formation of protein carbonyls, thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) and the concentration of nitrate plus nitrites, with a concomitant decrease in cell survival, as estimated by the trypan dye exclusion test and lactate dehydrogenase leakage. Simultaneous treatment with Cu and carnosine or neocuproine indicated that carnosine is more efficient than neocuproine in protecting both types of cells from the effect of cupric ions on both the cell-associated damages and the decrease in the cellular viability. This observation was supported by the fact that carnosine is not only a complexing agent for Cu(II), but also an effective antioxidant that can dismutate superoxide radicals, scavenge hydroxyl radicals and neutralize TBARS formation. Carnosine should be investigated in more detail in order to establish its putative utility as an agent to prevent copper-associated damages in biological systems. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Nathalie Arnal, María J T de Alaniz, Carlos A Marra. Carnosine and neocuproine as neutralizing agents for copper overload-induced damages in cultured human cells. Chemico-biological interactions. 2011 Jul 15;192(3):257-63

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PMID: 21501601

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