Free radical oxidation of brain proteins in accelerated senescence and its modulation by N-tert-butyl-α-phenylnitrone

D. Allan Butterfield, Beverly J. Howard, Servet Yatin, Kerry L. Allen, John M. Carney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


According to the free radical theory of aging, reactive oxygen species cause oxidative damage, proposed to be an underlying factor of the aging process. In the current study, we have used electron paramagnetic resonance spin labeling, measurements of protein carbonyl content, an index of protein oxidation, and determination of the activity of glutamine synthetase (an oxidatively sensitive enzyme) to report that cortical synaptosomal membranes from the senescence accelerated-prone (SAMP8) mouse showed structural characteristics of free radical oxidative stress relative to the senescence accelerated-resistant (SAMR1) mouse. The SAMP8 mouse exhibited a decrease in the relevant EPR parameter consistent with oxidative stress (P < 0.002), a decreased glutamine synthetase activity (P < 0.05), and an increased protein carbonyl content (P < 0.01) compared with these parameters in the SAMR1 mouse. Further, because free radical trapping compounds have been demonstrated to extend maximum life span and improve cognition in SAMP8 mice, we investigated the protective nature of the known free radical scavenger, N- tert-butyl-α-phenylnitrone (PBN), on the physical state of cortical synaptosomal membrane proteins. For 14 days, SAMR1 and SAMP8 mice were injected with 30 mg/kg PBN while the controls were injected with the corresponding volume of saline. Characteristic of less oxidized systems, cortical synaptosomal membranes from the PBN-injected SAMP8 mouse exhibited a return toward normal values of the relevant EPR parameter [the M(I) = +1 low- field weakly immobilized line/M(I) = +1 low-field strongly immobilized line (W/S) ratio of a protein-specific spin label] (P < 0.001) compared with that from saline-injected SAMP8 mice. In SAMR1 mice, in contrast to SAMP8, there was no significant change in the conformation of membrane proteins or protein carbonyl content of cortical synaptosomal membranes from the PBN-injected and saline-injected SAMR1 mice, showing that PBN itself did not induce conformational changes in cortical synaptosomal membrane proteins. The results are discussed with reference to the use of free radical scavengers as potential anti-aging agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-678
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 21 1997


  • aging
  • anti-aging agents
  • membrane proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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