Cell culture, oxidative stress, and antioxidants: avoiding pitfalls

Biomed J. 2014 May-Jun;37(3):99-105. doi: 10.4103/2319-4170.128725.


Cell culture is widely used by biochemists and cell/molecular biologists, but the fluctuating (and often elevated) levels of O 2 to which cells in culture are exposed can affect many of their properties. So can the low level of antioxidants found in some cell culture media. Reagents, especially "antioxidants," added to cell culture media can react with the constituents of the media to produce H 2 O 2 and degradation products that can influence cell behavior. Several published papers describing the cellular effects of ascorbate, polyphenols, and carotenoids have, in fact, reported artifacts due to the actions of the degradation products of these "antioxidants." A greater awareness of the potential artifacts in cell culture studies is needed among the free radical/antioxidant community.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Culture Media*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Culture Media
  • Reactive Oxygen Species