Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration: A novel strategy to enhance drug-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells by a reactive oxygen species-mediated mechanism

Hélène Pelicano, Li Feng, Yan Zhou, Jennifer S. Carew, Elizabeth O. Hileman, William Plunkett, Michael J. Keating, Peng Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

425 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cancer cells are under intrinsic increased oxidative stress and vulnerable to free radical-induced apoptosis. Here, we report a strategy to hinder mitochondrial electron transport and increase superoxide (O2 .-) radical generation in human leukemia cells as a novel mechanism to enhance apoptosis induced by anticancer agents. This strategy was first tested in a proof-of-principle study using rotenone, a specific inhibitor of mitochondrial electron transport complex I. Partial inhibition of mitochondrial respiration enhances electron leakage from the transport chain, leading to an increase in O2.- generation and sensitization of the leukemia cells to anticancer agents whose action involve free radical generation. Using leukemia cells with genetic alterations in mitochondrial DNA and biochemical approaches, we further demonstrated that As2O 3, a clinically active anti-leukemia agent, inhibits mitochondrial respiratory function, increases free radical generation, and enhances the activity of another O2.--generating agent against cultured leukemia cells and primary leukemia cells isolated from patients. Our study shows that interfering mitochondrial respiration is a novel mechanism by which As2O3 increases generation of free radicals. This novel mechanism of action provides a biochemical basis for developing new drug combination strategies using As2O3 to enhance the activity of anticancer agents by promoting generation of free radicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37832-37839
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume278
Issue number39
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 26 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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