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Int J Oncol. 2013 Jan;42(1):211-8. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1680. Epub 2012 Oct 26.

N-acetylcysteine potentiates doxorubicin-induced ATM and p53 activation in ovarian cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Providence College, Providence, RI 02918, USA.


Doxorubicin has been used clinically to treat various types of cancer, and yet the molecular mode of actions of doxorubicin remains to be fully unraveled. In this study, we investigated the effect of doxorubicin on cultured ovarian cancer cells (CaOV3). MTT assay data showed that doxorubicin inhibits cell proliferation in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Phagokinetic cell motility assay data indicated that doxorubicin inhibits both basal level and EGF-induced cell migration in CaOV3 cells. Confocal microscopic data revealed that doxorubicin induces reorganization of cytoskeletal proteins including actin, tubulin and vimentin. Doxorubicin induces phosphorylation of p53 at Ser15 and 20, acetylation of p53 and ATM activation. Doxorubicin also induces phosphorylation of histone H2AX at Ser139. Interestingly, doxorubicin also inhibits mTOR activity, measured by phosphorylation of S6 ribosomal protein. Pretreatment of CaOV3 cells with antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC), but not pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC) potentiates doxorubicin-induced phosphorylation of p53 and ATM. Collectively, we conclude that doxorubicin induces ATM/p53 activation leading to reorganization of cytoskeletal networks, inhibition of mTOR activity, and inhibition of cell proliferation and migration. Our data also suggest that removal of oxidants by antioxidants such as NAC may enhance the efficacy of doxorubicin in vivo.

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