Cellular redox state and its relationship to the inhibition of clonal cell growth and the induction of apoptosis during all-trans retinoic acid exposure in acute myeloblastic leukemia cells

Haematologica. 2000 Mar;85(3):238-45.


Background and objective: All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) induces growth arrest and apoptosis in acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) cells. Since cellular redox state regulates these events, we were interested in studying whether it has any role in the responsiveness of AML cells to ATRA.

Design and methods: Two human AML cell lines, the ATRA-sensitive OU-AML-3, and the ATRA-resistant OU-AML-7, were used as models. Clonogenic cell culture assay, annexin V method, and measurement of mitochondrial membrane potential were used for the determination of cell growth and apoptosis. Peroxide formation was analyzed by flow cytometry, glutathione and g-glutamylcysteine synthetase (g-GCS) activity was determined spectrophotometrically, and the expression of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) by Western blotting.

Results: ATRA inhibited clonogenic cell growth and induced apoptosis particularly in OU-AML-3 cells. The OU-AML-7 cells had a higher basal level of glutathione and g-GCS activity than the OU-AML-3 cells. ATRA enhanced the generation of peroxides after 24h exposure, which was more prominent in the sensitive than the resistant cell line and was not preventable by N-acetyl-L-cysteine. ATRA also increased the activity of g-GCS, which was associated with increased intracellular glutathione in the resistant cell line, while the glutathione level was maintained in the sensitive cell line. During ATRA exposure, MnSOD was induced in the sensitive cell line, but not until after 72 h. Buthionine sulfoximine significantly increased the inhibitory effect of ATRA on colony formation in both cell lines, but only marginally enhanced the effect of ATRA on the induction of apoptosis.

Interpretation and conclusions: The balance between oxidative and antioxidative actions of ATRA, as well as the basal redox state of the cells seem to have a definite influence on the responsiveness of AML cells to ATRA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Clone Cells / drug effects
  • Clone Cells / physiology
  • Glutathione / drug effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / physiopathology
  • Oxidants / pharmacology*
  • Oxidants / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Peroxides / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / physiology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / drug effects
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*
  • Tretinoin / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / physiology
  • gamma-Glutamyl Hydrolase / drug effects
  • gamma-Glutamyl Hydrolase / metabolism


  • Oxidants
  • Peroxides
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tretinoin
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • gamma-Glutamyl Hydrolase
  • Glutathione