Neuroprostanes are prostaglandin-like compounds produced by free radical-induced peroxidation of docosahexaenoic acid, which is highly enriched in the brain. We previously described the formation of highly reactive gamma-ketoaldehydes (isoketals) as products of the isoprostane pathway of free radical-induced peroxidation of arachidonic acid. We therefore explored whether isoketal-like compounds (neuroketals) are also formed via the neuroprostane pathway. Utilizing mass spectrometric analyses, neuroketals were found to be formed in abundance in vitro during oxidation of docosahexaenoic acid and were formed in greater abundance than isoketals during co-oxidation of docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acid. Neuroketals were shown to rapidly adduct to lysine, forming lactam and Schiff base adducts. Neuroketal lysyl-lactam protein adducts were detected in nonoxidized rat brain synaptosomes at a level of 0.09 ng/mg of protein, which increased 19-fold following oxidation in vitro. Neuroketal lysyl-lactam protein adducts were also detected in vivo in normal human brain at a level of 9.9 +/- 3.7 ng/g of brain tissue. These studies identify a new class of highly reactive molecules that may participate in the formation of protein adducts and protein-protein cross-links in neurodegenerative diseases and contribute to the injurious effects of other oxidative pathologies in the brain.