Cytotoxicity and inflammation-associated toxic responses have been observed to be induced by bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) in vitro and in vivo respectively. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, has been reported to be beneficial in inflammation-associated diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. Their precise molecular mechanisms, however, are not clearly understood. Our previous studies on aspirin treated HepG2 cells strongly suggest cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. In the present study, we have further demonstrated that HepG2 cells treated with LPS alone or in combination with aspirin induces subcellular toxic responses which are accompanied by increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, oxidative stress, mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction and apoptosis. The LPS/Aspirin induced toxicity was attenuated by pre-treatment of cells with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Alterations in oxidative stress and glutathione-dependent redox-homeostasis were more pronounced in mitochondria compared to extra- mitochondrial cellular compartments. Pre-treatment of HepG2 cells with NAC exhibited a selective protection in redox homeostasis and mitochondrial dysfunction. Our results suggest that the altered redox metabolism, oxidative stress and mitochondrial function in HepG2 cells play a critical role in LPS/aspirin-induced cytotoxicity. These results may help in better understanding the pharmacological, toxicological and therapeutic properties of NSAIDs in cancer cells exposed to bacterial endotoxins.
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