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Lipid peroxides -- more sophisticated than their reputation

In a joint study conducted by Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and a research group at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, researchers have now discovered that lipid peroxides* play a specific physiological role in the cell.

Prior to this study, scientists had already established that accumulation of lipid peroxides* indicate cell stress. Lipid peroxides have further been shown to be very potent inducers of cell death. The results of this study now demonstrate that chemically modified (oxidized) lipids temporarily inactivate protein tyrosine phosphatases*. These in turn regulate the cellular communication of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK)*. This finding is of central importance because aberrant activation of the receptor tyrosine kinases contributes to many diseases, including cancer. Until now, only hydrogen peroxide was known to oxidize and inactivate protein tyrosine phosphatases and thus to have a regulating effect on kinases.

"We were able to show that lipid peroxides are 100-1000 times more effective than hydrogen peroxide," said Dr. Marcus Conrad, lead authors of the publication, who has since moved from Helmholtz Zentrum München to the German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease. Dr. Arne Östman and Åsa Sandin from the Karolinska Institutet added: "It will be very interesting to see if lipid peroxides contribute to the activation of tyrosine kinases in cancer and other diseases, e.g. diabetes and Alzheimer's disease."


Lipid peroxides are chemically modified lipids or fatty acids, which, among other things, indicate cellular stress. In high concentrations they can trigger cell death. Elevated concentrations of lipid peroxides are often found in patients with common diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer or neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and protein tyrosine phosphatases have an important function in the regulation of cell growth and division. Over-active receptor tyrosine kinases play a key role in the etiology of cancer. A frequent cause of breast cancer, for instance, is a malfunction of the receptor tyrosine kinase HER-2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). In healthy tissues and cells receptor tyrosine kinases are precisely regulated by protein tyrosine phosphatases.

Original publication: Conrad M. et al: 12/15-lipoxygenase-derived lipid peroxides control receptor tyrosine kinase signaling through oxidation of protein tyrosine phosphatases, PNAS Early Edition, August 23, 2010.

Helmholtz Zentrum München is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. As leading center of Environmental Health, it focuses on chronic and complex diseases, which develop from the interaction of environmental factors and individual genetic disposition. Helmholtz Zentrum München has around 1700 staff members. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg to the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. The Helmholtz Zentrum München belongs to Helmholtz Association, Germany's largest research organization, a community of 16 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of 30,000 staff members.

Contact for Media Representative

Sven Winkler, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany; Phone: +49(0)89-3187-3946, Fax: +49(0)89-3187-3324, E-Mail:

Sonja Jülich-Abbas, DZNE Press and Public Relations, Holbeinstraße 13-15, 53175 Bonn, Germany; Phone: +49(0)228-43302-260, Fax +49(0)228-43302-279, E-Mail:

Sven Winkler | EurekAlert!
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