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Free Radic Res. 2003 Jun;37(6):611-9.

Involvement of reactive oxygen species in capsaicinoid-induced apoptosis in transformed cells.

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Departamento de Biología Celular, Fisiología e Inmunología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Córdoba, Avda. de Menéndez Pidal s/n, 14004, Córdoba, Spain.


Some varieties of sweet pepper accumulate non-pungent isosters of capsaicin, a type of compounds exemplified by capsiate. The only structural difference between capsaicin and capsiate is the link between the vanillyl and the acyl moieties, via an amide bond in the former and via an ester bond in the latter. By flow cytometry analyses we have determined that nor-dihydrocapsiate, a simplified analogue of capsiate, is a pro-oxidant compound that induces apoptosis in the Jurkat tumor cell line. The nuclear DNA fragmentation induced by nor-dihydrocapsiate is preceded by an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species and by a subsequent disruption of mitochondria transmembrane potential. Capsiate-induced apoptosis is initiated at the S phase of the cell cycle and is mediated by a caspase-3-dependent pathway. The accumulation of intracellular reactive oxygen species in capsiate-treated cells is greatly prevented by the presence of ferricyanide, suggesting that capsiates target a cellular redox system distinct from the one involved in the mitochondrial electron-chain transport. Methylation of the phenolic hydroxyl of nor-dihydrocapsiate completely abrogated the ability to induce reactive oxygen species and apoptosis, highlighting the relevance of the presence of a free phenolic hydroxyl for the pro-oxidant properties of capsaicinoids.

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