Adenosine induces apoptosis in human liver cancer cells through ROS production and mitochondrial dysfunction

Yunfang Ma, Jun Zhang, Qi Zhang, Ping Chen, Junyao Song, Shunji Yu, Hui Liu, Fuchen Liu, Chunhua Song, Dongqin Yang, Jie Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Mitochondria are the most important sensor for apoptosis. Extracellular adenosine is well reported to induce apoptosis of tumor cells. Here we found that extracellular adenosine suppresses the cell growth by induction of apoptosis in BEL-7404 liver cancer cells, and identified a novel mechanism that extracellular adenosine triggers apoptosis by increasing Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) production and mitochondrial membrane dysfunction in the cells. We observed that adenosine increases ROS production, activates c-Caspase-8 and -9 and Caspase effectors, c-Caspase-3 and c-PARP, induces accumulation of apoptosis regulator Bak, decreases Bcl-xL and Mcl-1, and causes the mitochondrial membrane dysfunction and the release of DIABLO, Cytochrome C, and AIF from mitochondria to cytoplasm in the cells; ROS inhibitor, NAC significantly reduces adenosine-induced ROS production; it also shows the same degree of blocking adenosine-induced loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and apoptosis. Our study first observed that adenosine increases ROS production in tumor cells and identified the positive feedback loop for ROS-mediated mitochondrial membrane dysfunction which amplifies the death signals in the cells. Our findings indicated ROS production and mitochondrial dysfunction play a key role in adenosine-induced apoptosis of 7404 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 23 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Adenosine induces apoptosis in human liver cancer cells through ROS production and mitochondrial dysfunction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this