Alpha-lipoic acid induces p27Kip-dependent cell cycle arrest in non-transformed cell lines and apoptosis in tumor cell lines

J Cell Physiol. 2003 Mar;194(3):325-40. doi: 10.1002/jcp.10205.


alpha-Lipoic acid is a naturally-occurring co-factor found in a number of multi-enzyme complexes regulating metabolism. We report here that alpha-lipoic acid induces hyperacetylation of histones in vivo and has differential effects on the growth and viability of normal versus transformed cell lines. The human tumor cell lines FaDu and Jurkat, as well as a Ki-v-Ras-transformed Balb/c-3T3 murine mesenchymal cell line, all initiated apoptosis following exposure to alpha-lipoic acid. In contrast, treatment of non-transformed cell lines with alpha-lipoic acid resulted only in reversible cell cycle arrest in G0/G1. Treatment with butyrate, another short-chain fatty acid, induced a G0/G1 arrest in both transformed and non-transformed cell lines. alpha-Lipoic acid caused a post-translational elevation in the levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1. Studies using p27Kip1-deficient MEF cells demonstrated that p27Kip1 was required for the alpha-lipoic acid-mediated cell cycle arrest. The mechanism of apoptosis was independent of Fas-mediated signaling, as alpha-lipoic acid-treated Jurkat cell mutants deficient in Fas or FADD retained sensitivity to apoptosis. The differential selectivity of the pro-apoptotic effects of alpha-lipoic acid for transformed cells supports its potential use in the treatment of neoplastic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Butyrates / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • G1 Phase / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Thioctic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*


  • Antioxidants
  • Butyrates
  • Cdkn1b protein, mouse
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • Thioctic Acid