Resveratrol inhibits cancer cell proliferation by impairing oxidative phosphorylation and inducing oxidative stress

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2019 May 1:370:65-77. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2019.03.008. Epub 2019 Mar 13.


The resveratrol (RSV) efficacy to affect the proliferation of several cancer cell lines was initially examined. RSV showed higher potency to decrease growth of metastatic HeLa and MDA-MB-231 (IC50 = 200-250 μM) cells than of low metastatic MCF-7, SiHa and A549 (IC50 = 400-500 μM) and non-cancer HUVEC and 3T3 (IC50≥600 μM) cells after 48 h exposure. In order to elucidate the biochemical mechanisms underlying RSV anti-cancer effects, the energy metabolic pathways and the oxidative stress metabolism were analyzed in HeLa cells as metastatic-type cell model. RSV (200 μM/48 h) significantly decreased both glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) protein contents (30-90%) and fluxes (40-70%) vs. non-treated cells. RSV (100 μM/1-5 min) also decreased at a greater extent OxPhos flux (net ADP-stimulated respiration) of isolated tumor mitochondria (> 50%) than of non-tumor mitochondria (< 50%), particularly with succinate as oxidizable substrate. In addition, RSV promoted an excessive cellular ROS (2-3 times) production corresponding with a significant decrement in the SOD activity (but not in its content) and GSH levels; whereas the catalase, glutahione reductase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase activities (but not their contents) remained unchanged. RSV (200 μM/48 h) also induced cellular death although not by apoptosis but rather by promoting a strong mitophagy activation (65%). In conclusion, RSV impaired OxPhos by inducing mitophagy and ROS over-production, which in turn halted metastatic HeLa cancer cell growth.

Keywords: Antioxidant response; Cancer; Mitophagy; Oxidative phosphorylation; ROS production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mice
  • Mitophagy / drug effects
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Resveratrol / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Phytochemicals
  • Resveratrol