Cellular toxicity driven by high-dose vitamin C on normal and cancer stem cells

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018 Feb 26;497(1):347-353. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.02.083. Epub 2018 Feb 9.


As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C protects cells from oxidative damage by inhibiting production of free radicals. However, high levels of vitamin C shows cytotoxicity especially on cancerous cells through generating excessive ROS and blocking the energy homeostasis. Although the double-sided character of vitamin C has been extensively studied in many cell types, there is little research on the consequence of vitamin C treatment in stem cells. Here, we identified that high-dose vitamin C shows cellular toxicity on proliferating NSPCs. We also demonstrated that undifferentiated NSPCs are more sensitive to vitamin C-driven DNA damage than differentiated cells, due to higher expression of Glut genes. Finally, we showed that high-dose vitamin C selectively induces DNA damage on cancer stem cells rather than differentiated tumor cells, raising a possibility that vitamin C may be used to target cancer stem cells.

Keywords: DNA damage; Oxidative stress; Stem cells; Vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • DNA Damage / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neural Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Ascorbic Acid