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Problems and Perspectives in Studying the Biological Role of Carnosine

Introduction of the Guest-Editor

A. A. Boldyrev

International Center for Biotechnology, Department of Biochemistry, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, 119899 Russia; fax: (7-095) 939-1398; E-mail: aab@genebee.msu.su

Received December 17, 1999
In describing carnosine among the constituents of muscle tissue in 1900, V. Gulevitsch opened the question of its real biological role. Investigation of carnosine-related phenomena occurred simultaneously with the study of its metabolic transformation within the cell. It has now been demonstrated that carnosine has the ability to protect cells against oxidative stress as well as to increase their resistance toward functional exhaustion and accumulation of senile features. Mechanisms of such protection are explained in terms of proton buffering, heavy metal chelating, as well as free radical and active sugar molecule scavenging, preventing modification of biomacromolecules and keeping their native functional activity under oxidative stress. Several carnosine derivatives are characterized by different rates of splitting by tissue carnosinase and by different biological efficiencies, thus the biological significance of enzymatic modification of carnosine during its tissue metabolism may be increased resistance of cells operating under unfavorable conditions.
KEY WORDS: carnosine, metabolic transformation, excitable tissues, oxidative stress, mobile proton buffer, cellular antioxidants