p66Shc was the first mammalian gene whose mutation was demonstrated to increase resistance to oxidative stress and to prolong life span. Many hypotheses have been formulated to explain the biochemical and molecular basis of mammalian aging. Among them the free radical theory of aging, which was first proposed half a century ago by Harman, has received much attention by biomedical scientists. This theory proposed that, because of their high reactivity, reactive oxygen species (ROS) would lead to unavoidable and potentially deleterious by-products, and such an increasingly damaging process could be responsible for degenerative diseases and aging. Recent reports suggest an important role of p66Shc protein in the regulation of cellular responses to oxidaiive stress, apoptosis, and aging. In this review we discuss what has been discovered about p66Shc in the past 10 years and we focus particularly on its role in ROS regulation, which appears to be extremely promising to define mammalian aging processes.
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