Mitochondria as an important target in heavy metal toxicity in rat hepatoma AS-30D cells

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Aug 15;231(1):34-42. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2008.03.017. Epub 2008 Apr 7.


The mechanisms of toxic effects of divalent cations of three heavy metals Hg, Cd and Cu in rat ascites hepatoma AS-30D cells cultivated in vitro were compared. It was found that the toxicity of these ions, applied in the micromolar range (10-500 microM), decreased from Hg(2+) (most toxic) to Cu(2+) (least toxic). Hg(2+) and Cd(2+) produced a high percentage of cell death by both necrosis and apoptosis, whereas Cu(2+) at concentrations up to 500 microM was weakly effective. Hg(2+) at concentration of 10 microM appeared slightly uncoupling (i.e., stimulated resting state respiration and decreased the mitochondrial transmembrane potential), whereas it exerted a strong inhibitory effect on the respiratory chain and rapid dissipation of the membrane potential at higher concentrations. Cu(2+) had inhibitory effect on cell respiration only at 500 microM concentration and after incubation of 48 h but produced a significant uncoupling effect at lower concentrations. Cu(2+) induced an early and sharp increase of intracellular production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The action of Hg(2+) and Cd(2+) on ROS generation was biphasic. They stimulated ROS generation within the cells at low concentrations and at short incubation times but decreased ROS generation at higher concentrations and at longer incubation. It is concluded that mitochondria are an important target for toxic effects of Hg(2+), Cd(2+) and Cu(2+) in AS-30D rat hepatoma cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Copper / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / drug effects*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / drug effects
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Copper
  • Mercury