Carnosine is part of the buffering system in skeletal muscle and in this role carnosine prevents the fall in pH associated with exercise. However, carnosine may play a role in other aspects of physiology. Carnosine may act as an antioxidant and may protect mitochondria from oxidation. For example, in one study researchers produced mitochondrial damage in rats by applying lead to their diet and this damage significantly imparied their reproductive function. However rats that were co-administered carnosine or L-histidine with the lead experienced an attenuation of the damaging effects. In particular, the mitochondrial damage evident with the lead administration was curtailed and improvements in antioxidant status were identified. These results suggest that one of the physiological roles of carnosine, at least in rats, is to protect cellular integrity as part of the antioxidant defenses of the cell. They also suggest that carnosine may play a role in maintaining reproductive function in spite of damage from environmental factors.
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