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J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1999;125(6):327-35.

Superoxide dismutases in the human colorectal cancer sequence.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.



The oxidant-antioxidant balance within tissues is thought to contribute to the development and progression of cancer. Previous investigations have indicated changes in this balance during the colorectal oncogenic process that merit further investigation. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether the human colorectal cancer sequence is accompanied by changes in the protein and activity levels of the antioxidant enzymes manganese- and copper/zinc-superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD and Cu/Zn-SOD).


SOD levels were assessed in colorectal adenomas, carcinomas, and liver metastases and were compared with those in the corresponding normal tissues (n = 35 in each group). Mn- and Cu/Zn-SOD expression was first evaluated semiquantitatively by electrophoretic activity analysis, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry and was subsequently quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and spectrophotometric activity assays.


The semiquantitative analyses showed enhanced Mn-SOD levels, primarily localized in (neoplastic) epithelial cells, in carcinomas, and in liver metastases as compared with adenomas and normal mucosa, whereas no consistent pattern was observed for Cu/Zn-SOD. Normal liver tissue expressed the highest levels of both SODs. The quantitative SOD analyses confirmed these observations and revealed that carcinomas and liver metastases expressed 2-4 times more Mn-SOD protein and enzymatic activity (0.0005 < P < 0.01) than did the normal mucosa. Adenomas expressed intermediate Mn-SOD levels, which increased significantly with the diameter and tended to increase with the grade of dysplasia and presence of a villous component. In contrast, adenomas, carcinomas, and the corresponding normal mucosa were found to have a similar Cu/Zn-SOD content, whereas liver metastases contained significantly (P < 0.02) more Cu/Zn-SOD as compared with these tissues. In addition, the Cu/Zn-SOD content was not related to any histopathological characteristic of the carcinomas or adenomas.


Our study indicates that the development of neoplasia in the human colorectum is accompanied by major changes in the level and activity of Mn-SOD. This observation illustrates that Mn-SOD might have a functional role in human colorectal carcinogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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