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Onco Targets Ther. 2019 Feb 28;12:1729-1739. doi: 10.2147/OTT.S194329. eCollection 2019.

Dichloroacetic acid upregulates apoptosis of ovarian cancer cells by regulating mitochondrial function.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China,
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Second Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130041, China,
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dalian Municipal Women and Children's Medical Center, Dalian 130041, China.



Metabolic reprogramming is a characteristic of tumor cells and is considered a potential therapeutic target. Even under aerobic conditions, tumor cells use glycolysis to produce energy, a phenomenon called the "Warburg effect". Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1) is a key factor linking glycolysis and the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Dichloroacetic acid (DCA) reverses the Warburg effect by inhibition of PDK1 to switch cytoplasmic glucose metabolism to mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS).


Cell viability was examined using a standard MTT assay. Glucose consumption and l-lactate production were measured using commercial colorimetric kits, and intracellular lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity was evaluated using cell lysates and an LDH Quantification Kit. Real-time PCR was used to detect the expression of related genes. The production of total ROS was evaluated by staining with dichlorofluorescin diacetate.


Comparison of various aspects of glucose metabolism, such as expression of key enzymes in glycolysis, lactate production, glucose consumption, mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate, and citric acid production, revealed that A2780/DDP cells were primarily dependent on glycolysis whereas A2780 cells were primarily dependent on mitochondrial OXPHOS. Mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) protects against mitochondrial ROS while allowing energy metabolism to switch to glycolysis. Treatment of A2780 cells with various concentrations of DCA resulted in decreased expression of UCP2, a metabolic switch from glycolysis to mitochondrial OXPHOS, and an increase in oxidative stress induced by ROS. These effects were not observed in A2780/DDP cells with higher UCP2 expression suggesting that UCP2 might induce changes in mitochondrial functions that result in different sensitivities to DCA.


Our results show that a drug targeting tumor metabolic changes affects almost the entire process of glucose metabolism. Thus, it is necessary to comprehensively determine tumor metabolic functions to facilitate individualized antitumor therapy.


DCA; glucose; glycolysis; metabolism; mitochondrial function

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

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