Regional hyperthermia has potential for human cancer treatment, particularly in combination with systemic chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The mechanisms involved in heat-induced cell killing are currently unknown. Hyperthermia may increase oxidative stress in cells, and thus, oxidative stress could have a role in the mechanism of cell death. We use hydrogen peroxide as a model oxidant to improve understanding of interactions between heat and oxidative stress. Heat increased cytotoxicity of hydrogen peroxide in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Altered levels of cellular antioxidants should create an imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant systems, thus modifying cytotoxic responses to heat and to oxidants. We determine the involvement of the two cellular antioxidant defenses against peroxides, catalase and the glutathione redox cycle, in cellular sensitivity to heat, to hydrogen peroxide, and to heat combined with the oxidant. Defense systems were either inhibited or increased. For inhibition studies, intracellular glutathione was diminished to less than 15% of its initial level by treatment with L-buthionine sulfoximine (1 mM, 24 h). Inhibition of catalase was achieved with 3-amino-1,2,4-triazole (20 mM, 2 h), which caused a 80% decrease in endogenous enzyme activity. To increase antioxidants, cells were pretreated with the thiol-containing reducing agents, N-acetyl-L-cysteine, 2-oxo-4-thiazolidine carboxylate, and 2-mercaptoethane sulfonate. These compounds increased intracellular glutathione levels by 30%. Catalase activity was increased by addition of exogenous enzyme to cells. We show that levels of glutathione and catalase affect cellular cytotoxic responses to heat and hydrogen peroxide, either used separately or in combination. These findings are relevant to mechanisms of cell killing at elevated temperatures and suggest the involvement of oxidative stress.
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