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Cancer Res. 1991 Feb 1;51(3):794-8.

Production of large amounts of hydrogen peroxide by human tumor cells.

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  • 1Beatrice and Samuel A. Seaver Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Cornell University Medical College, New York, New York 10021.


Few nonphagocytic cells are known to generate reactive oxygen intermediates. Based on horseradish peroxidase-dependent, catalase-inhibitable oxidation of fluorescent scopoletin, seven human tumor cell lines constitutively elaborated H2O2 at rates (up to 0.5 nmol/10(4) cells/h) large enough that cumulative amounts at 4 h were comparable to the amount of H2O2 produced by phorbol ester-triggered neutrophils. Superoxide dismutase-inhibitable ferricytochrome c reduction was detectable at much lower rates. H2O2 production was inhibited by diphenyleneiodonium, a flavoprotein binder (concentration producing 50% inhibition, 0.3 microM), and diethyldithiocarbamate, a divalent cation chelator (concentration producing 50% inhibition, 3 microM), but not by cyanide or azide, inhibitors of electron transport, or by agents that inhibit xanthine oxidase, polyamine oxidase, or cytochrome P450. Cytochrome b559, present in human phagocytes and lymphocytes, was undetectable in these tumor cells by a sensitive spectrophotometric method. Mouse fibroblasts transfected with human tyrosinase complementary DNA made melanin, but not H2O2. Constitutive generation of large amounts of reactive oxygen intermediates, if it occurs in vivo, might contribute to the ability of some tumors to mutate, inhibit antiproteases, injure local tissues, and therefore promote tumor heterogeneity, invasion, and metastasis.

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