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J Biol Chem. 2009 May 8;284(19):12886-95. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M806546200. Epub 2009 Mar 11.

Reactive oxygen species are not required for an arsenic trioxide-induced antioxidant response or apoptosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology and The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Arsenicals are both environmental carcinogens as well as therapeutic agents for the treatment of trypanosomiasis and more recently cancer. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) has been successfully used for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and has activity in multiple myeloma (MM). While signaling events associated with carcinogenesis have been well studied, it still remains to be determined which of these events are involved in anti-cancer signaling. To better define this response, gene expression profiling following ATO treatment of four MM cell lines was performed. The pattern was consistent with a strong antioxidative response, particularly of genes activated by Nrf2. While Nrf2 is expressed constitutively at the mRNA level, the protein is not detected in untreated cells. Consistent with inactivation of Keap1, Nrf2 protein is stabilized and present in the nucleus within 6 h of ATO treatment. Despite the activation of this antioxidative response, ROS may not be important in ATO-induced death. Inhibition of ATO-induced ROS with butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) does not affect Nrf2 activation or cell death. Moreover, silencing Nrf2 had no effect on ATO-induced apoptosis. Together these data suggest that ROS is not important in the induction of the antioxidative response or cellular death by ATO.

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