Etoposide is an effective anticancer agent whose antitumor activity is associated with its phenolic E-ring, which can participate in intracellular redox cycling reactions. Myeloperoxidase (MPO)-catalyzed one-electron oxidation of the etoposide phenolic ring and/or interaction of this phenolic moiety with reactive radicals yields its phenoxyl radical, whose reactivity may determine the pro- or antioxidant effects of this molecule in cells. Using MPO-rich HL-60 cells, we directly demonstrated that both anti- and pro-oxidant activities of etoposide are realized in cells. Etoposide acted as an effective radical scavenger and antioxidant protector of phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine, and other intracellular phospholipids against H2O2-induced oxidation in HL-60 cells with constitutively high MPO activity and in HL-60 cells depleted of MPO by an inhibitor of heme synthesis, succinyl acetone. MPO-catalyzed production of etoposide phenoxyl radicals observed directly in HL-60 cells by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) did not result in oxidation of these membrane phospholipids, suggesting that the radicals were not reactive enough to trigger lipid oxidation. MPO-dependent pro-oxidant activity of etoposide was directly demonstrated by (a) the ability of intracellular reduced glutathione (GSH) to eliminate EPR-detectable etoposide phenoxyl radicals, (b) the ability of etoposide phenoxyl radicals to oxidize GSH and protein thiols (after preliminary depletion of intracellular GSH with a maleimide reagent, ThioGlo-1), and (c) the disappearance of these effects after depletion of MPO by pretreatment of cells with succinyl acetone. In addition, titration of intracellular GSH (in intact cells) using the maleimide reagent ThioGlo-1 resulted in remarkably augmented EPR-detectable etoposide phenoxyl radicals and enhanced etoposide-induced topoisomerase II-DNA covalent complexes. In conclusion, the phenolic moiety of etoposide acts as an effective free radical scavenger, accounting for its antioxidant action. Whereas one-electron oxidation of etoposide by free radical scavenging and/or by MPO results in a phenoxyl radical with low reactivity toward lipids, its high reactivity toward thiols is a determinant of its pro-oxidant effects in HL-60 cells.
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh, 3343 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260