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Cancer Res. 1999 May 15;59(10):2493-8.

Mediation of N-(4-hydoxyphenyl)retinamide-induced apoptosis in human cancer cells by different mechanisms.

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Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


The induction of apoptosis by the synthetic retinoid N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (4HPR) has been documented in vitro in various cancer types. A role for reactive oxygen species (ROS) in apoptosis induced by 4HPR in some cancer cells has been demonstrated recently. We studied five different human head and neck and five lung cancer cell lines to determine whether the ROS play a general role in 4HPR-induced apoptosis. We found that 4HPR induced apoptosis in all of the cell lines; however, this effect was blocked by antioxidants in only 2 of the 10 cell lines. 4HPR induced a greater than 4-fold increase in the generation of intracellular ROS in these two cell lines compared with a much lower effect in other cell lines. Furthermore, these two cell lines were most sensitive to the induction of apoptosis by 4HPR. The level of the cellular antioxidant thiol and superoxide dismutase activity were relatively lower in cells, which responded to 4HPR with a high level of ROS generation. These results indicate that although ROS can mediate 4HPR-induced apoptosis in some cells, which may have a low endogenous cellular antioxidant levels, other mechanisms exist for 4HPR-induced apoptosis. One such mechanism may involve retinoic acid receptors (RARs) because an RAR antagonist was able to block partially 4HPR-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, 4HPR-induced apoptosis involves at least three different mechanisms, which are complex and can overlap in the same cell line: (a) one mechanism involving 4HPR-induced ROS; (b) one involving RARs; and (c) at least one that does not involve ROS or RARs and remains unclear.

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