The Prooxidant Action of Dietary Antioxidants Leading to Cellular DNA Breakage and Anticancer Effects: Implications for Chemotherapeutic Action Against Cancer

Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Life Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, 202002, India.
Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics (Impact Factor: 1.68). 10/2011; 67(2). DOI: 10.1007/s12013-011-9303-4


Plant-derived dietary antioxidants have attracted considerable interest in recent past for their ability to induce apoptosis and regression of tumors in animal models. While it is believed that the antioxidant properties of these agents may contribute to lowering the risk of cancer induction by impeding oxidative injury to DNA, it could not account for apoptosis induction and chemotherapeutic observations. In this article, we show that dietary antioxidants can alternatively switch to a prooxidant action in the presence of transition metals such as copper. Such a prooxidant action leads to strand breaks in cellular DNA and growth inhibition in cancer cells. Further, the cellular DNA breakage and anticancer effects were found to be significantly enhanced in the presence of copper ions. Moreover, inhibition of antioxidant-induced DNA strand breaks and oxidative stress by Cu(I)-specific chelators bathocuproine and neocuproine demonstrated the role of endogenous copper in the induction of the prooxidant mechanism. Since it is well established that tissue, cellular, and serum copper levels are considerably elevated in various malignancies, such a prooxidant cytotoxic mechanism better explains the anticancer activity of dietary antioxidants against cancer cells.

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