Formaldehyde stress

Rong Qiao He, Jing Lu, Jun Ye Miao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Formaldehyde, one of the most toxic organic compounds, is produced and processed in human cells. The level of human endogenous formaldehyde is maintained at a low concentration (0.01-0.08 mmol L-1 in blood) under physiological conditions, but the concentration increases during ageing (over 65 years old). Clinical trials have shown that urine formaldehyde concentrations are significantly different between elderly Alzheimer's patients (n=91) and normal elderly volunteers (n=38) (P<0.001). Abnormally high levels of intrinsic formaldehyde lead to dysfunction in cognition such as learning decline and memory loss. Excess extracellular and intracellular formaldehyde could induce metabolic response and abnormal modifications of cellular proteins such as hydroxymethylation and hyperphosphorylation, protein misfolding, nuclear translocation and even cell death. This cellular response called formaldehyde stress is dependent upon the concentration of formaldehyde. Chronic impairments of the brain resulted from formaldehyde stress could be one of the mechanisms involved in the process of senile dementia during ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1399-1404
Number of pages6
JournalScience China Life Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognition
  • formaldehyde
  • hyperphosphorylation
  • impairment
  • senile dementia
  • stress

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