Chronic oxidative stress increases growth and tumorigenic potential of MCF-7 breast cancer cells

Prathap Kumar S. Mahalingaiah, Kamaleshwar P. Singh

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75 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence suggests that exposures to elevated levels of either endogenous estrogen or environmental estrogenic chemicals are associated with breast cancer development and progression. These natural or synthetic estrogens are known to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increased ROS has been implicated in both cellular apoptosis and carcinogenesis. Though there are several studies on direct involvement of ROS in cellular apoptosis using short-term exposure model, there is no experimental evidence to directly implicate chronic exposure to ROS in increased growth and tumorigenicity of breast cancer cells. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of chronic oxidative stress on growth, survival and tumorigenic potential of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. MCF-7 cells were exposed to exogenous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a source of ROS at doses of 25 μM and 250 μM for acute (24 hours) and chronic period (3 months) and their effects on cell growth/survival and tumorigenic potential were evaluated. The results of cell count, MTT and cell cycle analysis showed that while acute exposure inhibits the growth of MCF-7 cells in a dose-dependent manner, the chronic exposure to H2O2-induced ROS leads to increased cell growth and survival of MCF-7 cells. This was further confirmed by gene expression analysis of cell cycle and cell survival related genes. Significant increase in number of soft agar colonies, up-regulation of pro-metastatic genes VEGF, WNT1 and CD44, whereas down-regulation of anti-metastatic gene E-Cadherin in H2O2 treated MCF-7 cells observed in this study further suggests that persistent exposure to oxidative stress increases tumorigenic and metastatic potential of MCF-7 cells. Since many chemotherapeutic drugs are known to induce their cytotoxicity by increasing ROS levels, the results of this study are also highly significant in understanding the mechanism for adaptation to ROS-induced toxicity leading to acquired chemotherapeutic resistance in breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87371
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 28 2014


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