Differential apoptotic response of human cancer cells to organoselenium compounds

Maiko Suzuki, Manabu Endo, Fumiaki Shinohara, Seishi Echigo, Hidemi Rikiishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Selenium (Se) compounds are well known to inhibit cell proliferation and induce cell death in human cancer cells. Respective chemical forms of Se are intracellularly metabolized via complicated pathways, which target distinct molecules and exhibit varying degrees of anti-carcinogenicity in different cancer types; however, the precise mechanisms by which Se activates apoptosis remain poorly understood. Methods: The effects of Se compounds, Se-methylselenocysteine (MSC), selenomethionine (SeMet), and selenite on cell proliferation, apoptosis and its pathway in established human carcinoma cell lines (HSC-3,-4, A549, and MCF-7) were investigated. Cancer cells were treated with each Se compound during different periods. Cell apoptosis, caspase activity and ER stress markers were analyzed by flow cytometric or immunoblotting analysis, respectively. Results: We examined four cell lines for their sensitivity to MSC and SeMet in comparison with selenite. SeMet increased apoptotic cells in p53-positive A549 cells, whereas MSC increased apoptotic cells in p53-mutated HSC-3 cells. High activities of caspase-3,-8 and-9 were observed during apoptosis, and a pan-caspase inhibitor, z-VAD-fmk, rescued the cell viability of HSC-3 cells exposed to MSC. In addition, the occurrence of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress was suggested by the observation that levels of phosphorylated eIF2α and caspase-12 activity are increased in Se-treated cells. Selenite and MSC were accompanied with the concurrent reduction of phosphorylated Akt levels, and the inhibitory effects of these Se compounds on vascular endothelial growth factor expression were observed with identical patterns. Conclusion: The present findings demonstrate that Seinduced apoptosis in carcinoma cells is basically a caspasedependent process involving complicated mechanisms. Activation of both the intrinsic apoptotic pathway and ER stress pathway plays a major and concurrent role, while p53 activation seems to have only a functional role in SeMet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiogenesis
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase-12
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Organoselenium compounds
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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