Increasing numbers of individuals suffer from neurodegenerative diseases, which are characterized by progressive loss of neurons. Oxidative stress, in particular, the overproduction of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), play an important role in the development of these diseases, as evidenced by the detection of products of lipid, protein and DNA oxidation in vivo. Even if they participate in cell signaling and metabolism regulation, ROS are also formidable weapons against most of the biological materials because of their intrinsic nature. By nature too, neurons are particularly sensitive to oxidation because of their high polyunsaturated fatty acid content, weak antioxidant defense and high oxygen consumption. Thus, the overproduction of ROS in neurons appears as particularly deleterious and the mechanisms involved in oxidative degradation of biomolecules are numerous and complexes. This review highlights the production and regulation of ROS, their chemical properties, both from kinetic and thermodynamic points of view, the links between them, and their implication in neurodegenerative diseases.
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