The signaling mechanism of ROS in tumor progression

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2006 Dec;25(4):695-705. doi: 10.1007/s10555-006-9037-8.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are recently proposed to be involved in tumor metastasis which is a complicated processes including epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), migration, invasion of the tumor cells and angiogenesis around the tumor lesion. ROS generation may be induced intracellularly, in either NADPH oxidase- or mitochondria-dependent manner, by growth factors and cytokines (such as TGFbeta and HGF) and tumor promoters (such as TPA) capable of triggering cell adhesion, EMT and migration. As a signaling messenger, ROS are able to oxidize the critical target molecules such as PKC and protein tyrosine phosphates (PTPs), which are relevant to tumor cell invasion. PKC contain multiple cysteine residues that can be oxidized and activated by ROS. Inactivation of multiple PTPs by ROS may relieve the tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent signaling. Two of the down-stream molecules regulated by ROS are MAPK and PAK. MAPKs cascades were established to be a major signal pathway for driving tumor cell metastasis, which are mediated by PKC, TGF-beta/Smad and integrin-mediated signaling. PAK is an effector of Rac-mediated cytoskeletal remodeling that is responsible for cell migration and angiogenesis. There are several transcriptional factors such as AP1, Ets, Smad and Snail regulating a lot of genes relevant to metastasis. AP-1 and Smad can be activated by PKC activator and TGF-beta1, respectively, in a ROS dependent manner. On the other hand, Est-1 can be upregulated by H2O2 via an antioxidant response element in the promoter. The ROS-regulated genes relevant to EMT and metastasis include E-cahedrin, integrin and MMP. Comprehensive understanding of the ROS-triggered signaling transduction, transcriptional activation and regulation of gene expressions will help strengthen the critical role of ROS in tumor progression and devising strategy for chemo-therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics


  • Reactive Oxygen Species