Taurine as a Natural Antioxidant: From Direct Antioxidant Effects to Protective Action in Various Toxicological Models.
Natural antioxidants have received tremendous attention over the last 3 decades. At the same time, the attitude to free radicals is slowly changing, and their signalling role in adaptation to stress has recently received a lot of attention. Among many different antioxidants in the body, taurine (Tau), a sulphur-containing non-proteinogenic β-amino acid, is shown to have a special place as an important natural modulator of the antioxidant defence networks. Indeed, Tau is synthesised in most mammals and birds, and the Tau requirement is met by both synthesis and food/feed supply. From the analysis of recent data, it could be concluded that the direct antioxidant effect of Tau due to scavenging free radicals is limited and could be expected only in a few mammalian/avian tissues (e.g., heart and eye) with comparatively high (>15-20 mM) Tau concentrations. The stabilising effects of Tau on mitochondria, a prime site of free radical formation, are characterised and deserve more attention. Tau deficiency has been shown to compromise the electron transport chain in mitochondria and significantly increase free radical production. It seems likely that by maintaining the optimal Tau status of mitochondria, it is possible to control free radical production. Tau's antioxidant protective action is of great importance in various stress conditions in human life, and is related to commercial animal and poultry production. In various in vitro and in vivo toxicological models, Tau showed AO protective effects. The membrane-stabilizing effects, inhibiting effects on ROS-producing enzymes, as well as the indirect AO effects of Tau via redox balance maintenance associated with the modulation of various transcription factors (e.g., Nrf2 and NF-κB) and vitagenes could also contribute to its protective action in stress conditions, and thus deserve more attention.