Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Carcinog. 2015 Dec;54(12):1734-47. doi: 10.1002/mc.22246. Epub 2014 Dec 31.

Grape seed extract targets mitochondrial electron transport chain complex III and induces oxidative and metabolic stress leading to cytoprotective autophagy and apoptotic death in human head and neck cancer cells.

Author information

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Aurora, Colorado.
University of Colorado Cancer Center, Aurora, Colorado.
Neuroscience Training Program, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a major killer worldwide and innovative measures are urgently warranted to lower the morbidity and mortality caused by this malignancy. Aberrant redox and metabolic status in HNSCC cells offer a unique opportunity to specifically target cancer cells. Therefore, we investigated the efficacy of grape seed extract (GSE) to target the redox and bioenergetic alterations in HNSCC cells. GSE treatment decreased the mitochondrial electron transport chain complex III activity, increased the mitochondrial superoxide levels and depleted the levels of cellular antioxidant (glutathione), thus resulting in the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential in human HNSCC Detroit 562 and FaDu cells. Polyethylene glycol-SOD addition reversed the GSE-mediated apoptosis without restoring complex III activity. Along with redox changes, GSE inhibited the extracellular acidification rate (representing glycolysis) and oxygen consumption rate (indicating oxidative phosphorylation) leading to metabolic stress in HNSCC cells. Molecular studies revealed that GSE activated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and suppressed Akt/mTOR/4E-BP1/S6K signaling in both Detroit 562 and FaDu cells. Interestingly, GSE increased the autophagic load specifically in FaDu cells, and autophagy inhibition significantly augmented the apoptosis in these cells. Consistent with in vitro results, in vivo analyses also showed that GSE feeding in nude mice activated AMPK and induced-autophagy in FaDu xenograft tumor tissues. Overall, these findings are innovative as we for the first time showed that GSE targets ETC complex III and induces oxidative and metabolic stress, thereby, causing autophagy and apoptotic death in HNSCC cells.


autophagy; bioenergetics; grape seed extract; head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; oxidative stress

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center