Roles of the lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal in obesity, the metabolic syndrome, and associated vascular and neurodegenerative disorders

Mark P. Mattson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


A rising tide of obesity and type 2 diabetes has resulted from the development of technologies that have made inexpensive high calorie foods readily available and exercise unnecessary for many people. Obesity and the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance, visceral adiposity and dyslipidemia) wreak havoc on cells throughout the body thereby promoting cardiovascular and kidney disease, and degenerative diseases of the brain and body. Obesity and insulin resistance promote disease by increasing oxidative damage to proteins, lipids and DNA as the result of a combination of increased free radical production and an impaired ability of cells to detoxify the radicals and repair damaged molecules. By covalently modifying membrane-associated proteins, the membrane lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) may play particularly sinister roles in the metabolic syndrome and associated disease processes. HNE can damage pancreatic β cells and can impair the ability of muscle and liver cells to respond to insulin. HNE may promote atherosclerosis by modifying lipoproteins and can cause cardiac cell damage by impairing metabolic enzymes. An adverse role for HNE in the brain in obesity and the metabolic syndrome is suggested by studies showing that HNE levels are increased in brain cells with aging and Alzheimer's disease. HNE can cause the dysfunction and degeneration of neurons by modifying membrane-associated glucose and glutamate transporters, ion-motive ATPases, enzymes involved in amyloid metabolism, and cytoskeletal proteins. Exercise and dietary energy restriction reduce HNE production and may also increase cellular systems for HNE detoxification including glutathione and oxidoreductases. The recent development of low molecular weight molecules that scavenge HNE suggests that HNE can be targeted in the design of drugs for the treatment of obesity, the metabolic syndrome, and associated disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-633
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Metabolic syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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