17 December 2013
The appearance of oxygen in the terrestrial atmosphere represented an important selective pressure for ancestral living organisms and contributed toward setting up the pace of evolutionary changes in structural and functional systems. The evolution of using oxygen for efficient energy production served as a driving force for the evolution of complex organisms. The redox reactions associated with its use were, however, responsible for the production of reactive species (derived from oxygen and lipids) with damaging effects due to oxidative chemical modifications of essential cellular components. Consequently, aerobic life required the emergence and selection of antioxidant defense systems. As a result, a high diversity in molecular and structural antioxidant defenses evolved. In the following paragraphs, we analyze the adaptation of biological membranes as a dynamic structural defense against reactive species evolved by animals. In particular, our goal is to describe the physiological mechanisms underlying the structural adaptation of cellular membranes to oxidative stress and to explain the meaning of this adaptive mechanism, and to review the state of the art about the link between membrane composition and longevity of animal species.