Methotrexate-related response on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells may be modulated by the Ala16Val-SOD2 gene polymorphism

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 20;9(10):e107299. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107299. eCollection 2014.


Methotrexate (MTX) is a folic acid antagonist used in high doses as an anti-cancer treatment and in low doses for the treatment of some autoimmune diseases. MTX use has been linked to oxidative imbalance, which may cause multi-organ toxicities that can be attenuated by antioxidant supplementation. Despite the oxidative effect of MTX, the influence of antioxidant gene polymorphisms on MTX toxicity is not well studied. Therefore, we analyzed here whether a genetic imbalance of the manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase (SOD2) gene could have some impact on the MTX cytotoxic response. An in vitro study using human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) obtained from carriers with different Ala16Val-SOD2 genotypes (AA, VV and AV) was carried out, and the effect on cell viability and proliferation was analyzed, as well as the effect on oxidative, inflammatory and apoptotic markers. AA-PBMCs that present higher SOD2 efficiencies were more resistance to high MTX doses (10 and 100 µM) than were the VV and AV genotypes. Both lipoperoxidation and ROS levels increased significantly in PBMCs exposed to MTX independent of Ala16Val-SOD2 genotypes, whereas increased protein carbonylation was observed only in PBMCs from V allele carriers. The AA-PBMCs exposed to MTX showed decreasing SOD2 activity, but a concomitant up regulation of the SOD2 gene was observed. A significant increase in glutathione peroxidase (GPX) levels was observed in all PBMCs exposed to MTX. However, this effect was more intense in AA-PBMCs. Caspase-8 and -3 levels were increased in cells exposed to MTX, but the modulation of these genes, as well as that of the Bax and Bcl-2 genes involved in the apoptosis pathway, presented a modulation that was dependent on the SOD2 genotype. MTX at a concentration of 10 µM also increased inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, TNFα and Igγ) and decreased the level of IL-10 anti-inflammatory cytokine, independent of SOD2 genetic background. The results suggest that potential pharmacogenetic effect on the cytotoxic response to MTX due differential redox status of cells carriers different SOD2 genotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Caspases / genetics
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fluoresceins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / genetics
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Protein Carbonylation / drug effects
  • Protein Carbonylation / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics*


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • Fluoresceins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • diacetyldichlorofluorescein
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • superoxide dismutase 2
  • Caspases
  • Methotrexate

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/M9.FIGSHARE.1132608

Grant support

This study was funded by CNPq – Conselho Nacional do Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CAPES – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, and FAPERGS – Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Rio Grande do Sul. All funders are no-profit Brazilian Governmental Agencies. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.