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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2009;72(21-22):1272-8. doi: 10.1080/15287390903212279.

Risk assessment of hydroquinone: differential responses of cell growth and lethality correlated to hydroquinone concentration.

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  • 1School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Hydroquinone (HQ) is a major metabolite of benzene and has been used as an antioxidant, a stabilizer, a photographic reducer, and an ingredient in skin lighteners. In this study, the effects of low (5 microM) and high (50 microM) concentrations of HQ were investigated on cell growth and lethality in Jurkat cells. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were increased with both HQ concentrations. Fifty micromolar HQ markedly increased phosphorylation of ERK and activation of caspase-9/-3, followed by PARP cleavage. The addition of ERK inhibitor PD98059 or N-acetylcysteine (NAC) abolished HQ-induced apoptosis. Five micromolar HQ activated ERK protein, but not JNK or p38. However, S-phase recruitment was decreased by preincubation with NAC, but not PD98059. Thus, high levels of ROS contributed to HQ-induced apoptosis via ERK signaling and the caspase pathway, whereas low quantities of ROS resulted in S-phase recruitment in the cell-cycle distribution.

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