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J Biol Chem. 2001 Nov 2;276(44):40955-61. Epub 2001 Aug 30.

Mechanism of vitamin C inhibition of cell death induced by oxidative stress in glutathione-depleted HL-60 cells.

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Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant whose precise role in protecting cells from oxidative challenge is uncertain. In vitro results have been confounded by pro-oxidant effects of ascorbic acid and an overlapping role of glutathione. We used HL-60 cells as a model to determine the precise and independent role of vitamin C in cellular protection against cell death induced by oxidative stress. HL-60 cells do not depend on glutathione to transport or reduce dehydroascorbic acid. Depletion of glutathione rendered the HL-60 cells highly sensitive to cell death induced by H2O2, an effect that was not mediated by changes in the activities of glutathione reductase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, or superoxide dismutase. The increased sensitivity to oxidative stress was largely reversed when glutathione-depleted cells were preloaded with ascorbic acid by exposure to dehydroascorbic acid. Resistance to H2O2 treatment in cells loaded with vitamin C was accompanied by intracellular consumption of ascorbic acid, generation of dehydroascorbic acid, and a decrease in the cellular content of reactive oxygen species. Some of the dehydroascorbic acid generated was exported out of the cells via the glucose transporters. Our data indicate that vitamin C is an important independent antioxidant in protecting cells against death from oxidative stress.

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