Arsenic-induced apoptosis in malignant cells in vitro

Yukihiro Akao, Hiroko Yamada, Yoshihito Nakagawa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Arsenic trioxide-induced apoptosis was identified by morphological change and nucleosomal DNA fragmentation in hematopoietic malignant cells and neuroblastoma cells. Arsenic trioxide directly induced apoptosis in the acute promyelocytic cell line NB4 cells at a low dose of 1 μM, whereas all-trans-retinoic acid caused the cells to differentiate and finally induced apoptosis. In addition to the involvement of caspase 3 in arsenic trioxide-induced apoptosis of NB4 cells, the activation of caspase 8 was also shown to be involved by Western blot analysis or by apoptosis inhibition assay using caspase 8 inhibitor Ac-IETD-CHO. The down-regulation of Bcl-2 protein was shown in arsenic trioxide-treated pre-apoptotic and early apoptotic mouse B-cell line LyH7 cells, which overexpress Bcl-2 protein, by the studies of Western blot and immunoelectron microscopy. Arsenic trioxide also induced apoptosis in the majority of neuroblastomas cell lines. The arsenic-induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma cell lines was mediated by the activation of caspase 3 in all cases tested. In regard to the intracellular content of reduced glutathione in various neuroblastoma cell lines, the level in the cells sensitive to arsenic trioxide was under 40 nmol/mg protein, but the cells having more than 40 nmol/mg protein did not undergo apoptosis. N-acetylcysteine protected neuroblastoma cells from arsenic-induced apoptosis. Therefore, the intracellular glutathione content may be a good indicator of application of arsenic trioxide for various kinds of cancer cells. Our results raise the possibility that arsenic trioxide will be effective even against a solid tumor such as neuroblastoma and warrants clinical trials for patients with other kinds of tumors not only by systemic therapy but also using local therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalLeukemia and Lymphoma
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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