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Free Radic Res. 2005 Jun;39(6):649-57.

Enhancement of quinone redox cycling by ascorbate induces a caspase-3 independent cell death in human leukaemia cells. An in vitro comparative study.

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Unité de Pharmacocinétique, Métabolisme, Nutrition et Toxicologie, Département des sciences pharmaceutiques, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


Since the higher redox potential of quinone molecules has been correlated with enhanced cellular deleterious effects, we studied the ability of the association of ascorbate with several quinones derivatives (having different redox potentials) to cause cell death in K562 human leukaemia cell line. The rationale is that the reduction of quinone by ascorbate should be dependent of the quinone half-redox potential thus determining if reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed or not, leading ultimately to cell death or cell survival. Among different ROS that may be formed during redox cycling between ascorbate and the quinone, the use of different antioxidant compounds (mannitol, desferal, N-acetylcysteine, catalase and superoxide dismutase) led to support H2O2 as the main oxidizing agent. We observed that standard redox potentials, oxygen uptake, free ascorbyl radical formation and cell survival were linked. The oxidative stress induced by the mixture of ascorbate and the different quinones decreases cellular contents of ATP and GSH while caspase-3-like activity remains unchanged. Again, we observed that quinones having higher values of half-redox potential provoke a severe depletion of ATP and GSH when they were associated with ascorbate. Such a drop in ATP content may explain the lack of activation of caspase-3. In conclusion, our results indicate that the cytotoxicity of the association quinone/ascorbate on K562 cancer cells may be predicted on the basis of half-redox potentials of quinones.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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