Chemical research in toxicology

Preclinical genotoxicology of nor-β-lapachone in human cultured lymphocytes and Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts.

PMID 21830773


Nor-β-lapachone has shown several biological properties. Regarding cytotoxic activity against cancer cell lines, it has been recognized as an important prototype. However, quinonoid drugs present a major challenge because of their toxicity. In this study, we evaluated the cytotoxicity and genetic toxicity of nor-β-lapachone in human lymphocytes and HL-60 leukemia cells and murine V79 fibroblasts, to shed some light on its selectivity toward cancer cells. As measured by MTT test, exposure of V79 cells to nor-β-lapachone resulted in a weak cytotoxicity (IC(50) = 13.41 μM), and at a concentration up to 21.9 μM, no cytotoxic effect was observed in lymphocytes, while in HL-60 cells, nor-β-lapachone elicited significantly greater cytotoxicity (IC(50) = 1.89 μM). Cultures coexposed to GSH-OEt showed an increased viability, which may indicate a neutralization of ROS generated by quinonoid treatment. In fact, only the highest concentrations of nor-β-lapachone (10 or 20 μM) caused an increase in oxidative stress in nontumor levels cells as measured by TBARS and nitrite/nitrate detection. This was accompanied by an alteration in intracellular thiol content. However, NAC pre-exposure restored the redox equilibrium of the cells and the concentration of thiol levels to control values. Nor-β-lapachone at 2.5 and 5 μM failed to induce DNA damage in nontumor cells, but at the highest concentrations tested, it induced single and double DNA strand breaks and increased the frequency of chromosomal aberrations. Interestingly, these damages were prevented by NAC pretreatment or exacerbated by prior exposure to the GSH-depleting agent 1-bromoheptane. In electrochemical experiments, nor-β-lapachone at the same concentrations as those used in genotoxic tests did not damage DNA directly, but at the highest concentration tested (200 μM), it caused a very weak DNA interaction. Corroborating electrochemical data, oxidative modifications of DNA bases were observed, as checked by DNA repair enzymes EndoIII and FPG, which reinforced the indirect actions caused by nor-β-lapachone through ROS generation and not via DNA intercalation. The DNA repair capacities were higher for nontumor cells than for leukemia cells, which may be related to the selective cytoxicity of nor-β-lapachone toward cancer cells. Our data suggest that ROS play an important role in nor-β-lapachone toxicity and that its DNA-damaging effect occurs only at concentrations several times higher than that needed for its antiproliferative effect on cancer cells.

Related Materials

Product #



Molecular Formula

Add to Cart

β-Lapachone, ≥98% (TLC)