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Biochem J. 2009 Feb 1;417(3):717-26. doi: 10.1042/BJ20080805.

Inhibition of energy-producing pathways of HepG2 cells by 3-bromopyruvate.

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  • 1Laboratório de Bioenergética e Fisiologia Mitocondrial, Programa de Bioquímica e Biofísica Celular, Instituto de Bioquímica Médica, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Av. Carlos Chagas Filho 373-CCS, Bl. D, ss13, 21941-902, RJ, Brazil.


3-BrPA (3-bromopyruvate) is an alkylating agent with anti-tumoral activity on hepatocellular carcinoma. This compound inhibits cellular ATP production owing to its action on glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation; however, the specific metabolic steps and mechanisms of 3-BrPA action in human hepatocellular carcinomas, particularly its effects on mitochondrial energetics, are poorly understood. In the present study it was found that incubation of HepG2 cells with a low concentration of 3-BrPA for a short period (150 microM for 30 min) significantly affected both glycolysis and mitochondrial respiratory functions. The activity of mitochondrial hexokinase was not inhibited by 150 microM 3-BrPA, but this concentration caused more than 70% inhibition of GAPDH (glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase) and 3-phosphoglycerate kinase activities. Additionally, 3-BrPA treatment significantly impaired lactate production by HepG2 cells, even when glucose was withdrawn from the incubation medium. Oxygen consumption of HepG2 cells supported by either pyruvate/malate or succinate was inhibited when cells were pre-incubated with 3-BrPA in glucose-free medium. On the other hand, when cells were pre-incubated in glucose-supplemented medium, oxygen consumption was affected only when succinate was used as the oxidizable substrate. An increase in oligomycin-independent respiration was observed in HepG2 cells treated with 3-BrPA only when incubated in glucose-supplemented medium, indicating that 3-BrPA induces mitochondrial proton leakage as well as blocking the electron transport system. The activity of succinate dehydrogenase was inhibited by 70% by 3-BrPA treatment. These results suggest that the combined action of 3-BrPA on succinate dehydrogenase and on glycolysis, inhibiting steps downstream of the phosphorylation of glucose, play an important role in HepG2 cell death.

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