Pyruvate reduces DNA damage during hypoxia and after reoxygenation in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

FEBS J. 2007 Oct;274(19):5188-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.06044.x. Epub 2007 Sep 14.


Pyruvate is located at a crucial crossroad of cellular metabolism between the aerobic and anaerobic pathways. Modulation of the fate of pyruvate, in one direction or another, can be important for adaptative response to hypoxia followed by reoxygenation. This could alter functioning of the antioxidant system and have protective effects against DNA damage induced by such stress. Transient hypoxia and alterations of pyruvate metabolism are observed in tumors. This could be advantageous for cancer cells in such stressful conditions. However, the effect of pyruvate in tumor cells is poorly documented during hypoxia/reoxygenation. In this study, we showed that cells had a greater need for pyruvate during hypoxia. Pyruvate decreased the number of DNA breaks, and might favor DNA repair. We demonstrated that pyruvate was a precursor for the biosynthesis of glutathione through oxidative metabolism in HepG2 cells. Therefore, glutathione decreased during hypoxia, but was restored after reoxygenation. Pyruvate had beneficial effects on glutathione depletion and DNA breaks induced after reoxygenation. Our results provide more evidence that the alpha-keto acid promotes the adaptive response to hypoxia followed by reoxygenation. Pyruvate might thus help to protect cancer cells under such stressful conditions, which might be harmful for patients with tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism*
  • Cell Hypoxia*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Pyruvic Acid / metabolism*


  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Glutathione
  • Oxygen