Glyoxal (GO) and methylglyoxal (MG), belonging to α-oxoaldehydes, are produced by organisms from bacteria to humans by glucose oxidation, lipid peroxidation, and DNA oxidation. Since glyoxals contain two adjacent reactive carbonyl groups, they are referred to as reactive electrophilic species (RES), and are damaging to proteins and nucleotides. Therefore, glyoxals cause various diseases in humans, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, from which all living organisms need to be protected. Although the glyoxalase system has been known for some time, details on how glyoxals are sensed and detoxified in the cell have not been fully elucidated, and are only beginning to be uncovered. In this review, we will summarize the current knowledge on bacterial responses to glyoxal, and specifically focus on the glyoxal-associated regulators YqhC and NemR, as well as their detoxification mediated by glutathione (GSH)-dependent/independent glyoxalases and NAD(P)H-dependent reductases. Furthermore, we will address questions and future directions.
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