Factors influencing nitroxide reduction and cytotoxicity in vitro

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2004 Jun;6(3):587-95. doi: 10.1089/152308604773934341.


Nitroxides have been shown to be effective antioxidants, radiation protectors, and redox-active probes for functional electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) imaging. More recently, the nitroxide 4-hydroxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyl-N-oxyl (Tempol) has been shown to exert differential cytotoxicity to tumor compared with normal cell counterparts. Nitroxides are readily reduced in tissues to their respective hydroxylamines, which exhibit less cytotoxicity in vitro and do not provide radiation protection or an EPR-detectable signal for imaging. In order to better understand factors that influence nitroxide reduction, the rate of reduction of Tempol in mouse and human cell lines and in primary cultures of tumor cells was measured using EPR spectroscopy. Additionally, the cytotoxicity of high concentrations of Tempol and the hydroxylamine of Tempol (Tempol-H) was evaluated in wild-type and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)-deficient Chinese hamster ovary cells. The results show that in general Tempol was reduced at a faster rate when cells were under hypoxic compared with aerobic conditions. Neither depletion of intracellular glutathione nor treatment of cells with sodium cyanide influenced Tempol reduction rates. G6PD-deficient cells were found to reduce Tempol at a significantly slower rate than wild-type cells. Likewise, Tempol-induced cytotoxicity was markedly less for G6PD-deficient cells compared with wild-type cells. Tempol-H exhibited no cytotoxicity to either cell type. Tempol-mediated cytotoxicity was enhanced by glutathione depletion and inhibition of 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase in wild-type cells, but was unaltered in G6PD-deficient cells. Collectively, the results indicate that while the bioreduction of Tempol can be influenced by a number of factors, the hexose monophosphate shunt appears to be involved in both nitroxide reduction as well as cytotoxicity induced by high levels of exposure to Tempol.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cricetinae
  • Cyclic N-Oxides / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / methods
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Nitrogen Oxides / chemistry*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Spin Labels
  • Time Factors


  • Cyclic N-Oxides
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Spin Labels
  • Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase
  • Glutathione
  • Oxygen
  • tempol