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Disulfiram induces apoptosis in human melanoma cells: a redox-related process.

  • Author(s): Cen, Dazhi
  • Gonzalez, Rachel I
  • Buckmeier, Julie A
  • Kahlon, Ravi S
  • Tohidian, Nilou B
  • Meyskens, Frank L, Jr
  • et al.

Melanoma is highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy. We have demonstrated that redox regulation in melanoma cells is aberrant, and redox-modulating agents can induce cell apoptosis. We have currently explored the effect of disulfiram (DSF), a member of the dithiocarbamate family, on apoptosis of melanoma cells in vitro. Human metastatic melanoma cells c81-46A, c81-61, and c83-2C were treated with DSF and apoptosis measured. DSF, at a dose of 25-50 ng/ml, consistently caused a 4-6-fold increase in apoptosis. The same dose of DSF did not significantly affect apoptosis in melanocytes. Coincubation of N-acetyl-cysteine reversed the DSF-induced apoptosis. Buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), an inhibitor of gamma-glutamyl-cysteine synthetase, as a single agent caused a approximately 2-fold increase in apoptosis when incubated with melanoma cells for 4 days. BSO slightly enhanced the level of apoptosis induced by DSF (4-10% higher than DSF alone). Intracellular glutathione was remarkably depleted with BSO treatment. DSF did not cause glutathione depletion; however, the ratio of reduced and oxidized glutathione was significantly decreased (14% of control), and N-acetyl-cysteine partially restored the ratio to 30% of control. There was a transient (2-fold) elevation of intracellular superoxide level after 24 h of DSF treatment (before the overt apoptosis). The intracellular H2O2 level progressively decreased with time. DSF decreased the mitochondrial membrane polarization in a time-dependent manner, and there was a significant inverse correlation between apoptosis and mitochondrial membrane polarization. We propose that DSF-induced apoptosis is redox related but involves a different mechanism from BSO-induced apoptosis in tumor cells. Our findings have provided new data for additional understanding of drug-induced apoptosis in melanoma cells and suggests an alternative therapeutic approach to melanoma.

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