Characteristics of cancer cells include a more oxidized redox environment, metabolic reprogramming and apoptosis resistance. Our studies with a lymphoma model have explored connections between the cellular redox environment and cancer cell phenotypes. Alterations seen in lymphoma cells made resistant to oxidative stress include: a more oxidized redox environment despite increased expression of antioxidant enzymes, enhanced net tumour growth, metabolic changes involving the mitochondria and resistance to the mitochondrial pathway to apoptosis. Of particular importance, the cells show cross-resistance to multiple chemotherapeutic agents used to treat aggressive lymphomas. Analyses of clinical and tumour data reveal the worst prognosis when patients' lymphomas have gene expression patterns consistent with the most oxidized redox environment. Lymphomas from patients with the worst survival outcomes express increased levels of proteins involved in oxidative phosphorylation, including cytochrome c. This is consistent with these cells functioning as metabolic opportunists. Using lymphoma cell models and primary lymphoma cultures, we observed enhanced killing using genetic and drug approaches which further oxidize the cellular redox environment. These approaches include increased expression of SOD2 (superoxide dismutase 2), treatment with a manganoporphyrin that oxidizes the glutathione redox couple, or treatment with a copper chelator that inhibits SOD1 and leads to peroxynitrite-dependent cell death. The latter approach effectively kills lymphoma cells that overexpress the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2. Given the central role of mitochondria in redox homoeostasis, metabolism and the intrinsic pathway to apoptosis, our studies support the development of new anti-cancer drugs to target this organelle.
- Redox homoeostasis
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