Thioredoxin reductase as a potential molecular target for anticancer agents that induce oxidative stress

Dee Dee K. Smart, Karen L. Ortiz, David Mattson, C. Matthew Bradbury, Kheem S. Bisht, Leah K. Sieck, Martin W. Brechbiel, David Gius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Redox-sensitive signaling factors regulate multiple cellular processes, including proliferation, cell cycle, and prosurvival signaling cascades, suggesting their potential as molecular targets for anticancer agents. It is logical to set constraints that a molecular target should meet at least one of the following criteria: (1) inhibition of prosurvival signaling pathways; (2) inhibition of cell cycle progression; or (3) enhancement of the cytotoxic effects of anticancer agents. Therefore, we hypothesized that thioredoxin reductase 1 (TR), a component of several redox-regulated pathways, might represent a potential molecular target candidate in response to agents that induce oxidative stress. To address this issue, permanent cell lines overexpressing either the wild-type (pCXN2-myc-TR-wt) or a Cys-Ser mutant (pCXN2-myc-mTR) TR gene were used, as were parental HeLa cells treated with 1-methyl-1-propyl-2-imidazolyl disulfide (IV-2), a pharmacologic inhibitor of TR. Cells were exposed to the oxidative stressors, H2O2 ionizing radiation (IR), and analyzed for changes in signal transduction, cell cycle, and cytotoxicity. Analysis of HeLa cells overexpressing the pCXN2-myc-TR-wt gene showed increased basal activity of nuclear factor κB (NFκB) and activator protein (AP-1), whereas HeLa cells expressing a pCXN2-myc-mTR gene and HeLa cells treated with IV-2 were unable to induce NFκB or AP-1 activity following H2O2 or IR exposure. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis showed a marked accumulation of pCXN2-myc-mTR cells in the late G1 phase, whereas pCXN2-myc-TR-wt cells showed a decreased G1 subpopulation. Chemical inhibition of TR with IV-2 also completely inhibited cellular proliferation at concentrations between 10 and 25 μmol/L, resulting in a G1 phase cell cycle arrest consistent with the results from cells expressing the pCXN2-myc-mTR gene. Following exposure to H2O2 and IR, pCXN2-myc-mTR- and IV-2-treated cells were significantly more sensitive to oxidative stress-induced cytotoxicity as measured by clonogenic survival assays. Finally, IV-2-treated cells showed increased tumor cell death when treated with H2O 2 and IR. These results identify TR as a potential target to enhance the cytotoxic effects of agents that induce oxidative stress, including IR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6716-6724
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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