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Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(5):5751-67. doi: 10.3390/ijms13055751. Epub 2012 May 11.

Streptozotocin-induced cytotoxicity, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, POBox 17666, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates; E-Mail:


Streptozotocin (STZ) is an antibiotic often used in the treatment of different types of cancers. It is also highly cytotoxic to the pancreatic beta-cells and therefore is commonly used to induce experimental type 1 diabetes in rodents. Resistance towards STZ-induced cytotoxicity in cancer cells has also been reported. Our previous studies have reported organ-specific toxicity and metabolic alterations in STZ-induced diabetic rats. STZ induces oxidative stress and metabolic complications. The precise molecular mechanism of STZ-induced toxicity in different tissues and carcinomas is, however, unclear. We have, therefore, investigated the mechanism of cytotoxicity of STZ in HepG2 hepatoma cells in culture. Cells were treated with different doses of STZ for various time intervals and the cytotoxicity was studied by observing the alterations in oxidative stress, mitochondrial redox and metabolic functions. STZ induced ROS and RNS formation and oxidative stress as measured by an increase in the lipid peroxidation as well as alterations in the GSH-dependent antioxidant metabolism. The mitochondria appear to be a highly sensitive target for STZ toxicity. The mitochondrial membrane potential and enzyme activities were altered in STZ treated cells resulting in the inhibition of ATP synthesis. ROS-sensitive mitochondrial aconitase activity was markedly inhibited suggesting increased oxidative stress in STZ-induced mitochondrial toxicity. These results suggest that STZ-induced cytotoxicity in HepG2 cells is mediated, at least in part, by the increase in ROS/RNS production, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Our study may be significant for better understanding the mechanisms of STZ action in chemotherapy and drug induced toxicity.


GSH; HepG2 cells; ROS; mitochondria; oxidative stress; streptozotocin

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