Tumorigenic polyploid cells contain elevated ROS and ARE selectively targeted by antioxidant treatment

J Cell Physiol. 2012 Feb;227(2):801-12. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22793.


Polyploidy has been linked to tumorigenicity mainly due to the chromosomal aberrations. Elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, on the other hand, has also been associated with oncogenic transformation in most cancer cells. However, a possible link between ploidy and ROS is largely unexplored. Here we have examined the role of ROS in the tumorigenicity of polyploid cells. We show that polyploid prostate and mammary epithelial cells contain higher levels of ROS due to their higher mitochondrial contents. ROS levels and mitochondrial mass are also higher in dihydrocytochalasin B (DCB)-induced polyploid cells, suggesting that higher levels of ROS observed in polyploid cell can occur due to cytokinesis failure. Interestingly, polyploid cells were more sensitive to the inhibitory effect of the antioxidant, N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), than control diploid cells. Treatment of polyploid/diploid cells with NAC led to the selective elimination of polyploid cells over time and abrogated the tumorigenicity of polyploid cells. This effect was partially mediated via the Akt signaling pathway. We next explored a possible role for ROS in promoting chromosomal instability by analyzing the effects of ROS on the mitotic stage of the cell cycle. Enhancing ROS levels by treating cells with hydrogen peroxide delayed not only entry into and but also exit from mitosis. Furthermore, increasing ROS levels significantly increased taxol resistance. Our results indicated that increased ROS in polyploid cells can contribute to tumorigenicity and highlight the therapeutic potential of antioxidants by selectively targeting the tumorigenic polyploid cells and by reversing taxol resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Male
  • Mammary Glands, Human / cytology
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Mitosis / physiology
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Polyploidy*
  • Prostate / cytology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Paclitaxel
  • Acetylcysteine