MAPK inhibitors, particularly the JNK inhibitor, increase cell death effects in H2O2-treated lung cancer cells via increased superoxide anion and glutathione depletion.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS), especially hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), induce apoptosis in cancer cells by regulating mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways. The present study investigated the effects of MAPK inhibitors on cell growth and death as well as changes in ROS and glutathione (GSH) levels in H2O2-treated Calu-6 and A549 lung cancer cells. H2O2 inhibited growth and induced death of Calu-6 and A549 lung cancer cells. All MAPK inhibitors appeared to enhance growth inhibition in H2O2-treated Calu-6 and A549 lung cancer cells and increased the percentage of Annexin V-FITC-positive cells in these cancer cells. Among the MAPK inhibitors, a JNK inhibitor significantly augmented the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP; ΔΨm) in H2O2-treated Calu-6 and A549 lung cancer cells. Intracellular ROS levels were significantly increased in the H2O2-treated cells at 1 and 24 h. Only the JNK inhibitor increased ROS levels in the H2O2-treated cells at 1 h and all MAPK inhibitors raised superoxide anion levels in these cells at 24 h. In addition, H2O2 induced GSH depletion in Calu-6 and A549 cells and the JNK inhibitor significantly enhanced GSH depletion in H2O2‑treated cells. Each of the MAPK inhibitors altered ROS and GSH levels differently in the Calu-6 and A549 control cells. In conclusion, H2O2 induced growth inhibition and death in lung cancer cells through oxidative stress and depletion of GSH. The enhanced effect of MAPK inhibitors, especially the JNK inhibitor, on cell death in H2O2-treated lung cancer cells was correlated with increased O2•- levels and GSH depletion.