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FEBS Lett. 1998 Nov 27;440(1-2):13-8.

Apoptosis induced by hydrogen peroxide is mediated by decreased superoxide anion concentration and reduction of intracellular milieu.

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Oncology Research Institute, National University Medical Institutes, Clinical Research Centre, Singapore, Singapore.


Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is considered to be a mediator of apoptotic cell death but the mechanism by which it induces apoptosis is unclear. Here, we show that cells undergoing apoptosis from exposure to H2O2 display a significant decrease in intracellular concentration of superoxide (O2-) which is associated with a reduction of the intracellular milieu, as measured by an increase in the GSH/GSSG ratio and a decrease in intracellular pH. The notion that a decrease in intracellular O2- concentration triggers apoptosis is supported by the observation that H2O2-mediated apoptosis could be retarded in cells in which the intracellular O2- concentration is maintained at or above the cellular baseline level by inhibition of the major O2- scavenger superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD). Taken together, our observations indicate that a decrease in the intracellular O2- concentration, reduction and acidification of the intracellular milieu constitute a signal for H2O2-mediated apoptosis, thereby inducing a reductive as opposed to an oxidative stress.

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