Arsenic compounds induce apoptosis by activating the MAPK and caspase pathways in FaDu oral squamous carcinoma cells

Su Zhen Wu, Yu Yan Lan, Chiao Yun Chu, Yang Kao Wang, Yi-Ping Lee, Hong Yi Chang, Bu Miin Huang

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7 Citations (Scopus)


For a number of years, oral cancer has remained in the top ten most common types of cancer, with an incidence rate that is steadily increasing. In total, ∼75% oral cancer cases are associated with lifestyle factors, including uncontrolled alcohol consumption, betel and tobacco chewing, and the excessive use of tobacco. Notably, betel chewing is highly associated with oral cancer in Southeast Asia. Arsenic is a key environmental toxicant; however, arsenic trioxide has been used as a medicine for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, highlighting its anticancer properties. The present study aimed to investigate the role of arsenic compounds in the treatment of cancer, using FaDu oral squamous carcinoma cells treated with sodium arsenite (NaAsO2) and dimethyl arsenic acid (DMA). The results demonstrated that FaDu cells exhibited membrane blebbing phenomena and high levels of apoptosis following treatment with 10 μM NaAsO2 and 1 mM DMA for 24 h. The results of cell viability assay demonstrated that the rate of FaDu cell survival was markedly reduced as the concentration of arsenic compounds increased from 10 to 100 μM NaAsO2, and 1 to 100 mM DMA. Moreover, flow cytometry was carried out to further examine the effects of arsenic compounds on FaDu cell cycle regulation; the results revealed that treatment with NaAsO2 and DMA led to a significant increase in the percentage of FaDu cells in the sub-G1 and G2/M phases of the cell cycle. An Annexin V/PI double staining assay was subsequently performed to verify the levels of FaDu cell apoptosis following treatment with arsenic compounds. Furthermore, the results of the western blot analyses revealed that the expression levels of caspase-8, -9 and -3, and poly ADP-ribose polymerase, as well the levels of phosphorylated JNK and ERK1/2 were increased following treatment with NaAsO2 and DMA in the FaDu cells. On the whole, the results of the present study revealed that treatment with NaAsO2 and DMA promoted the apoptosis of FaDu oral cancer cells, by activating MAPK pathways, as well as the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5308
JournalInternational Journal of Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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