Non-thermal plasma induces mitochondria-mediated apoptotic signaling pathway via ROS generation in HeLa cells

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

15 Scopus Citations
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  • Wei Li
  • Jie Ma
  • Jie Shen
  • Cheng Cheng
  • Fangjian Zhou
  • Zhiming Cai
  • Wei Han

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-77
Journal / PublicationArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Online published9 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


Non-thermal plasma (NTP) has been proposed as a novel therapeutic method for anticancer treatment. Although increasing evidence suggests that NTP selectively induces apoptosis in some types of tumor cells, the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain unclear. In this study, we further investigated possible molecular mechanisms for NTP-induced apoptosis of HeLa cells. The results showed that NTP exposure significantly inhibited the growth and viability of HeLa cells. Morphological observation and flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that NTP exposure induced HeLa cell apoptosis. NTP exposure also activated caspase-9 and caspase-3, which subsequently cleaved poly (ADP- ribose) polymerase. Furthermore, NTP exposure suppressed Bcl-2 expression, enhanced Bax expression and translocation to mitochondria, activated mitochondria-mediated apoptotic pathway, followed by the release of cytochrome c. Further studies showed that NTP treatment led to ROS generation, whereas blockade of ROS generation by N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC, ROS scavengers) significantly prevented NTP-induced mitochondrial alteration and subsequent apoptosis of HeLa cells via suppressing Bax translocation, cytochrome c and caspase-3 activation. Taken together, our results indicated that NTP exposure induced mitochondria-mediated intrinsic apoptosis of HeLa cells was activated by ROS generation. These findings provide insights to the therapeutic potential and clinical research of NTP as a novel tool in cervical cancer treatment.

Research Area(s)

  • Apoptosis, HeLa cell, Mitochondria, Non-thermal plasma, Reactive oxygen species