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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2013 Dec 26;5(24):13248-57. doi: 10.1021/am4042367. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

Peroxidase-like activity of Fe3O4@carbon nanoparticles enhances ascorbic acid-induced oxidative stress and selective damage to PC-3 prostate cancer cells.

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State Key Laboratory of Molecular Engineering of Polymers, Department of Macromolecular Science, Fudan University , Shanghai 200433, P. R. China.


Ascorbic acid (AA) is capable of inhibiting cancer cell growth by perturbing the normal redox state of cells and causing toxic effects through the generation of abundant reactive-oxygen species (ROS). However, the clinical utility of AA at a tolerable dosage is plagued by a relatively low in vivo efficacy. This study describes the development of a peroxidase-like composite nanoparticle for use in an AA-mediated therapeutic strategy. On the basis of a high-throughput, one-pot solvothermal approach, Fe3O4@C nanoparticles (NPs) were synthesized and then modified with folic acid (FA) on the surface. Particular focus is concentrated on the assessment of peroxidase-like catalytic activity by a chromogenic reaction in the presence of H2O2. The carbon shell of Fe3O4@C NPs contains partially graphitized carbon and thus facilitates electron transfer in the catalytic decomposition of H2O2, leading to the production of highly reactive hydroxyl radicals. Along with magnetic responsiveness and receptor-binding specificity, the intrinsic peroxidase-like catalytic activity of Fe3O4@C-FA NPs pronouncedly promotes AA-induced oxidative stress in cancer cells and optimizes the ROS-mediated antineoplastic efficacy of exogenous AA. In vitro experiments using human prostate cancer PC-3 cells demonstrate that Fe3O4@C-FA NPs serve as a peroxidase mimic to create hydroxyl radicals from endogenous H2O2 that is yielded in response to exogenous AA via an oxidative stress process. The usage of a dual agent leads to the enhanced cytotoxicity of PC-3 cells, and, because of the synergistic effect of NPs, the administrated dosage of AA is reduced markedly. However, because normal cells (HEK 293T cells) appear to have a higher capacity to cope with additionally generated ROS than cancer cells, the NP-AA combination shows little damage in this case, proving that selective killing of cancer cells could be achieved owing to preferential accumulation of ROS in cancer cells. A possible ROS-mediated mechanism is discussed to elucidate the pharmaceutical profile of the NP-AA agent. In general, this foundational study reveals that the peroxidase-like nanomaterials are applicable for modulating oxidative stress for the selective treatment of cancer cells by generating a high level of endogenous ROS.

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