Povidone-iodine results in rapid killing of thymic epithelial tumour cells through cellular fixation†

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2019 Mar 1;28(3):353-359. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivy248.


Objectives: Hyperthermic pleural lavage with povidone-iodine (PVP-I) is utilized to control micrometastatic disease following cytoreductive surgery for thymic epithelial tumours (TETs). Our objective was to investigate whether PVP-I demonstrates direct cytotoxicity against human TET cells.

Methods: Human Met-5A (immortalized mesothelial cell), IU-TAB-1 (thymoma) and Ty-82 (thymic carcinoma) cell lines were treated with serial dilutions of PVP-I (0.01-10%) for 5, 30 and 60 min at 37°C and 42°C. MTT assays and flow cytometry were used to evaluate cell death and apoptosis. Membrane permeability was assayed by intracellular staining of cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase. Cellular fixation was evaluated by membrane disruption of dead cells by dimethylsulphoxide and by comparing cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase staining following PVP-I with known fixatives.

Results: MTT assays demonstrated that PVP-I concentrations greater than 0.5% led to rapid cell death in both TET cell lines regardless of temperature. IC50 values following 5 min of exposure to PVP-I were 8.4 mM (0.3%) and 13.3 mM (0.48%) for IU-TAB-1 and Ty-82, respectively and 8.9 mM (0.32%) for MeT-5A. Flow cytometry demonstrated that 5-min exposure of either cell line to 1% PVP-I resulted in profound cell death: 74% and 58% at 5 min and 97% and 95% at 30 min, for IU-TAB-1 and Ty-82 cells, respectively. Resistance of PVP-I-treated cells to dimethylsulphoxide lysis and similar cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase expression following PVP-I and known fixatives revealed cellular fixation as the mechanism of death following PVP-I exposure.

Conclusions: PVP-I results in rapid death of human TET cells and normal mesothelial cells through a cellular fixation mechanism and may, therefore, favourably impact the control of micrometastatic disease following resection of TETs with pleural dissemination.

Keywords: Cytotoxicity; Hyperthermic pleural lavage; Pleural dissemination; Povidone-iodine; Thymic epithelial tumour.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology
  • Povidone-Iodine / pharmacology*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / pathology


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Povidone-Iodine

Supplementary concepts

  • Thymic epithelial tumor