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J Neurochem. 2001 Jul;78(2):265-75.

Oxidative stress mediates neuronal DNA damage and apoptosis in response to cytosine arabinoside.

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Department of Pharmacology, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


Cytosine arabinoside (AraC) is a nucleoside analog that produces significant neurotoxicity in cancer patients. The mechanism by which AraC causes neuronal death is a matter of some debate because the conventional understanding of AraC toxicity requires incorporation into newly synthesized DNA. Here we demonstrate that AraC-induced apoptosis of cultured cerebral cortical neurons is mediated by oxidative stress. AraC-induced cell death was reduced by treatment with several different free-radical scavengers (N-acetyl-L-cysteine, dipyridamole, uric acid, and vitamin E) and was increased following depletion of cellular glutathione stores. AraC induced the formation of reactive oxygen species in neurons as measured by an increase in the fluorescence of the dye 5-(6)-carboxy-2',7'-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate. AraC produced DNA single-strand breaks as measured by single-cell gel electrophoresis and the level of DNA strand breakage was reduced by treatment with the free radical scavengers. These data support a model in which AraC induces neuronal apoptosis by provoking the generation of reactive oxygen species, causing oxidative DNA damage and initiating the p53-dependent apoptotic program. These observations suggest the use of antioxidant therapies to reduce neurotoxicity in AraC chemotherapeutic regimens.

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