Phenoxyl radicals of etoposide (VP-16) can directly oxidize intracellular thiols: protective versus damaging effects of phenolic antioxidants

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1995 Apr;131(2):277-88. doi: 10.1006/taap.1995.1070.


Phenolic compounds can act as radical scavengers due to their ability to donate a mobile hydrogen to peroxyl radicals producing a phenoxyl radical if the phenoxyl radical formed in the radical scavenging reaction efficiently interacts with vitally important biomolecules, then this interaction may result in cytotoxic effects rather than in antioxidant protection. In the present work we have chosen two model compounds--a phenolic antitumor drug, VP-16, known to be highly cytotoxic, and a homolog of vitamin E, 2,2,5,7,8-pentamethyl-6-hydroxychromane (PMC)--as typical representatives of phenoxyl radicals to study interactions of their phenoxyl radicals with intracellular thiols. Using a water-soluble source of peroxyl radicals, the azo-initiator 2,2'-azobis(2-aminodinopropane) (AAPH), we found that both PMC and VP-16 are very efficient scavengers of peroxyl radicals as evidenced by their ability to inhibit AAPH-induced chemiluminescence of luminol and oxidation of PnA incorporated into DOPC liposomes. Both PMC and VP-16 were also able to protect against AAPH-induced oxidative degradation of DNA in nuclei from human leukemic K562 cells. In contrast, there was a dramatic difference in the ability of VP-16 and PMC to protect GSH against AAPH-induced oxidation: while PMC inhibited AAPH-induced oxidation of GSH in a concentration-dependent manner, VP-16 did not protect GSH against oxidation. We hypothesized that this was due to different reactivities of the phenoxyl radicals formed by AAPH-derived peroxyl radicals from VP-16 and PMC toward GSH. To substantiate this hypothesis, we compared interactions of the phenoxyl radicals generated from VP-16 and PMC with intracellular thiols in K562 cell homogenates. While the PMC phenoxyl radicals were only slightly affected by thiols, the VP-16 phenoxyl radicals were reduced by thiols. This is evidenced by (i) a significant inhibition of the tyrosinase-induced VP-16 consumption upon addition of K562 cell homogenates, (ii) a depletion of endogenous thiols in K562 cell homogenates induced by VP-16+tyrosinase, (iii) a transient disappearance of the VP-16 phenoxyl radical signal from the ESR spectra and its reappearance after depletion of endogenous thiols, and (iv) elimination of the lag period for the appearance of the VP-16 phenoxyl radical ESR signal subsequent to depletion of thiols by mersalyl acid. To evaluate the contribution of GSH and protein thiols to reduction of the VP-GSH-peroxidase + cumeme hydroperoxide to specifically deplete endogenous GSH.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • CHO Cells
  • Chromans / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / drug effects
  • Drug Interactions
  • Etoposide / metabolism*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antioxidants
  • Chromans
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Etoposide
  • 2,2,5,7,8-pentamethyl-1-hydroxychroman