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Int J Cancer. 2007 Mar 15;120(6):1192-7.

Role of glycolysis inhibition and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activation in necrotic-like cell death caused by ascorbate/menadione-induced oxidative stress in K562 human chronic myelogenous leukemic cells.

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


Among different features of cancer cells, two of them have retained our interest: their nearly universal glycolytic phenotype and their sensitivity towards an oxidative stress. Therefore, we took advantage of these features to develop an experimental approach by selectively exposing cancer cells to an oxidant insult induced by the combination of menadione (vitamin K(3)) and ascorbate (vitamin C). Ascorbate enhances the menadione redox cycling, increases the formation of reactive oxygen species and kills K562 cells as shown by more than 65% of LDH leakage after 24 hr of incubation. Since both lactate formation and ATP content are depressed by about 80% following ascorbate/menadione exposure, we suggest that the major intracellular event involved in such a cytotoxicity is related to the impairment of glycolysis. Indeed, NAD(+) is rapidly and severely depleted, a fact most probably related to a strong Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activation, as shown by the high amount of poly-ADP-ribosylated proteins. The addition of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) restores most of the ATP content and the production of lactate as well. The PARP inhibitor dihydroxyisoquinoline (DiQ) was able to partially restore both parameters as well as cell death induced by ascorbate/menadione. These results suggest that the PARP activation induced by the oxidative stress is a major but not the only intracellular event involved in cell death by ascorbate/menadione. Due to the high energetic dependence of cancer cells on glycolysis, the impairment of such an essential pathway may explain the effectiveness of this combination to kill cancer cells.

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