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J Urol. 2014 Oct;192(4):1238-48. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.05.115. Epub 2014 Jun 10.

H2O2 generation by bacillus Calmette-Guérin induces the cellular oxidative stress response required for bacillus Calmette-Guérin direct effects on urothelial carcinoma biology.

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  • 1Departments of Urology and Biophysics (JZ, BK), Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



Exposure of urothelial carcinoma cells to bacillus Calmette-Guérin affects cellular redox status and tumor cell biology but the mechanism(s) remain unclear. We examined free radical production by bacillus Calmette-Guérin in tumor cells in response to the bacillus using global profiling of reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species. The relationship between free radical generation and downstream cellular events was evaluated.


Using fluorescent probes we performed global profiling of reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species in heat killed and viable bacillus Calmette-Guérin, and in the 253J and T24 urothelial carcinoma cell lines after exposure to the bacillus. Inhibition of bacillus Calmette-Guérin internalization and H2O2 pharmacological scavenging were studied for their effect on cellular reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species generation and various physiological end points.


Viable bacillus Calmette-Guérin produced H2O2 and O2(-) but nitric oxide was not generated. Loss of viability decreased H2O2 production by 50% compared to viable bacillus. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin internalization was necessary for the bacillus to induce reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species generation in urothelial carcinoma cells. Pharmacological H2O2 scavenging reversed reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species mediated signaling in urothelial carcinoma cells. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin dependent alterations in tumor biology, including intracellular signaling, gene expression and cytotoxicity, depended on free radical generation.


This study demonstrates the importance of free radical generation by bacillus Calmette-Guérin and intracellular generation of cellular oxidative stress on the urothelial carcinoma cell response to the bacillus. Manipulating the cellular oxidative stress induced by bacillus Calmette-Guérin represents a potential target to increase the efficacy of the bacillus.

Copyright © 2014 American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


BCG vaccine; carcinoma; free radicals; oxidative stress; urinary bladder

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