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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Apr;11(4):777-90. doi: 10.1089/ARS.2008.2270.

Regulation of autophagy by reactive oxygen species (ROS): implications for cancer progression and treatment.

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Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been identified as signaling molecules in various pathways regulating both cell survival and cell death. Autophagy, a self-digestion process that degrades intracellular structures in response to stress, such as nutrient starvation, is also involved in both cell survival and cell death. Alterations in both ROS and autophagy regulation contribute to cancer initiation and progression, and both are targets for developing therapies to induce cell death selectively in cancer cells. Many stimuli that induce ROS generation also induce autophagy, including nutrient starvation, mitochondrial toxins, hypoxia, and oxidative stress. Some of these stimuli are under clinical investigation as cancer treatments, such as 2-methoxyestrodial and arsenic trioxide. Recently, it was demonstrated that ROS can induce autophagy through several distinct mechanisms involving Atg4, catalase, and the mitochondrial electron transport chain (mETC). This leads to both cell-survival and cell-death responses and could be selective toward cancer cells. In this review, we give an overview of the roles ROS and autophagy play in cell survival and cell death, and their importance to cancer. Furthermore, we describe how autophagy is mediated by ROS and the implications of this regulation to cancer treatments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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