Combined arginine and ascorbic acid treatment induces apoptosis in the hepatoma cell line HA22T/VGH and changes in redox status involving the pentose phosphate pathway and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species.

Research paper by Bau-Shan BS Hsieh, Li-Wen LW Huang, Shu-Jem SJ Su, Hsiao-Ling HL Cheng, Yu-Chen YC Hu, Thu-Ching TC Hung, Kee-Lung KL Chang

Indexed on: 19 Jun '10Published on: 19 Jun '10Published in: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry


Arginine is a physiological substrate for nitric oxide synthase to generate nitric oxide (NO), which can influence tumor cell survival, while ascorbic acid is selectively toxic for cancer cells. This study explored the effect of an arginine/ascorbic acid combination on human cancer cell lines. The hepatoma cell line HA22T/VGH was the most sensitive of the tested cells to combination treatment. A combination of 5.74 mM of arginine and 0.57 mM of ascorbic acid induced HA22T/VGH cell death through apoptosis and an increase in levels of reactive oxygen species and NO, as well as its stable products NO(2)(-) and NO(3)(-). The combination also reduced the activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase, and transaldolase in the pentose phosphate pathway, a major mechanism for producing NADPH, resulting in a marked decrease in intracellular NADPH levels. A dramatic decrease in intracellular glutathione (GSH) levels, a decrease in the mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP depletion and release of cytochrome c were also seen. Caspase-9 and caspase-3 were activated, apoptotic protein Bax expression increased and the expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL decreased. These results suggest that this combination induced HA22T/VGH cell death by interfering with redox state regulation by a reduction in pentose phosphate pathway activity and increasing oxidative and nitrosative stress.