Alcohol, Oxidative Stress, and Free Radical Damage

Wu, Defeng; Cederbaum, Arthur I.
December 2003
Alcohol Research & Health;2003, Vol. 27 Issue 4, p277
Academic Journal
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are small, highly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules that are naturally generated in small amounts during the body's metabolic reactions and can react with and damage complex cellular molecules such as fats, proteins, or DNA. Alcohol promotes the generation of ROS and/or interferes with the body's normal defense mechanisms against these compounds through numerous processes, particularly in the liver. For example, alcohol breakdown in the liver results in the formation of molecules whose further metabolism in the cell leads to ROS production. Alcohol also stimulates the activity of enzymes called eytochrome P450s, which contribute to ROS production. Further, alcohol can alter the levels of certain metals in the body, thereby facilitating ROS production. Finally, alcohol reduces the levels of agents that can eliminate ROS (i.e., antioxidants). The resulting state of the cell, known as oxidative stress, can lead to cell injury. ROS production and oxidative stress in liver cells play a central role in the development of alcoholic liver disease. INSETS: REACTIONS INVOLVING FREE RADICALS;DISEASES INVOLVING EXCESSIVE ROS LEVELS.


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