Adaptation to oxidative stress, chemoresistance, and cell survival

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Nov;11(11):2701-16. doi: 10.1089/ars.2009.2692.


The discovery of some additional properties and functions of reactive oxygen species (ROS), beyond their toxic effects, provides a novel scenario for the molecular basis and cell regulation of several pathophysiologic processes. ROS are generated by redox-sensitive, prosurvival signaling pathways and function as second messengers in the transduction of several extracellular signals. A complex intracellular redox buffering network has developed to adapt and protect cells against the dangerous effects of oxidative stress. However, pathways involved in ROS-adaptive response may also play a critical role in protecting cells against cytotoxic effects of anticancer agents, thus supporting the hypothesis of a correlation between adaptation/resistance to oxidative stress and resistance to anticancer drugs. This review summarizes the main systems involved in the adaptive responses: an overview on the pathophysiologic relevance of mitochondria on redox-sensitive transcription factors and genes and main antioxidant networks in tumor cells is provided. One of the major aims is to highlight the adaptive mechanisms and their interplay in the intricate connection between oncogenic signaling, oxidative stress, and chemoresistance. Clarification of these mechanisms has tremendous application potential, in terms of developing novel molecular-targeted anticancer therapies and innovative strategies for rational combination of these agents with chemotherapeutic or tumor-specific biologic drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Reactive Oxygen Species