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Pro-oxidant Actions of Carotenoids in Triggering Apoptosis of Cancer Cells: A Review of Emerging Evidence

1
Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biotechnology, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Korea
2
Department of Crop Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Korea
3
Institute of Natural Science and Agriculture, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Korea
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Antioxidants 2020, 9(6), 532; https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9060532
Received: 27 May 2020 / Revised: 15 June 2020 / Accepted: 15 June 2020 / Published: 17 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Carotenoids, Oxidative Stress and Disease)
Carotenoids are well known for their potent antioxidant function in the cellular system. However, in cancer cells with an innately high level of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), carotenoids may act as potent pro-oxidant molecules and trigger ROS-mediated apoptosis. In recent years, the pro-oxidant function of several common dietary carotenoids, including astaxanthin, β-carotene, fucoxanthin, and lycopene, has been investigated for their effective killing effects on various cancer cell lines. Besides, when carotenoids are delivered with ROS-inducing cytotoxic drugs (e.g., anthracyclines), they can minimize the adverse effects of these drugs on normal cells by acting as antioxidants without interfering with their cytotoxic effects on cancer cells as pro-oxidants. These dynamic actions of carotenoids can optimize oxidative stress in normal cells while enhancing oxidative stress in cancer cells. This review discusses possible mechanisms of carotenoid-triggered ROS production in cancer cells, the activation of pro-apoptotic signaling by ROS, and apoptotic cell death. Moreover, synergistic actions of carotenoids with ROS-inducing anti-cancer drugs are discussed, and research gaps are suggested. View Full-Text
Keywords: astaxanthin; fucoxanthin; β-carotene; lycopene; bixin; apocarotenoids; p53; anthracyclines astaxanthin; fucoxanthin; β-carotene; lycopene; bixin; apocarotenoids; p53; anthracyclines
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Shin, J.; Song, M.-H.; Oh, J.-W.; Keum, Y.-S.; Saini, R.K. Pro-oxidant Actions of Carotenoids in Triggering Apoptosis of Cancer Cells: A Review of Emerging Evidence. Antioxidants 2020, 9, 532.

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