Reactive oxygen species modulate Zn2+-induced apoptosis in cancer cells

Mauro Provinciali, Alessia Donnini, Katy Argentati, Grazia Di Stasio, Beatrice Bartozzi, Giovanni Bernardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some recent evidence has suggested a protective role of zinc against cancer. The mechanism by which zinc exerts this action has not been defined and, in particular, it has not been clarified whether zinc may directly act on cancer cells and the molecular mechanisms involved in this effect. In this study, we examined the in vitro effect of zinc on the apoptosis of mouse TS/A mammary adenocarcinoma cells, studying the zinc-dependent modulation of the intracellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and of p53 and Fas/Fas ligand pathways. We showed that zinc concentrations ranging from 33.7 to 75 μM Zn2+ induced apoptosis in mammary cancer cells. The apoptosis was associated with an increased production of intracellular ROS, and of p53 and Fas/Fas ligand mRNA and protein. Zn2+ induced a faint metallothionein response in TS/A cells in comparison with mouse lymphocytes. The treatment of tumor cells with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine was able to prevent Zn2+-induced apoptosis, as well as the increase of p53 and Fas ligand protein induced by zinc. The data demonstrate that zinc exerts a direct action on mammary cancer cells inducing ROS-mediated apoptosis and that the effect may be mediated by the ROS-dependent induction of p53 and Fas/Fas ligand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-445
Number of pages15
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Fas/Fas ligand
  • Free radicals
  • P53
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Tumor cells
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Toxicology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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