Antioxidant action via p53-mediated apoptosis

Ming Liu, Jill C. Pelling, Jingfang Ju, Edward Chu, Douglas E. Brash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The biological effects of antioxidants are often considered in terms of their effects on oxygen or lipid radicals. However, antioxidants can also exert their effects through altering the cellular redox potential. Herein, we report that sulfur-containing antioxidants such as N-acetylcysteine and dimercaptopropanel induced apoptosis in several transformed cell lines and transformed primary cultures but not in normal cells. In contrast, chain- breaking antioxidants such as vitamin E lacked this activity. An increased glutathione level was not required for apoptosis; however, all apoptosis- inducing antioxidants elevated the total cellular thiol levels. Antioxidant- induced apoptosis required the p53 tumor suppressor gene. N-Acetylcysteine elevated p53 expression posttranscriptionally by increasing the rate of p53 mRNA translation rather than by altering the protein stability. The p53 induction occurred in normal cells. These observations indicate a redox sensor for p53 induction in vive, with additional transformation-specific information being required for apoptosis. Manipulating p53-dependent apoptosis with nontoxic antioxidants may have a direct clinical application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1723-1729
Number of pages7
JournalCancer research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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