In Situ OH Generation from O2 and H2O2 Plays a Critical Role in Plasma-Induced Cell Death

Dehui Xu
Dingxing Liu
Biqing Wang
Chen Chen
Zeyu Chen
Dong Li
Yanjie Yang
Hailan Chen, Old Dominion University
Michael G. Kong, Old Dominion University


Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species produced by cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) are considered to be the most important species for biomedical applications, including cancer treatment. However, it is not known which species exert the greatest biological effects, and the nature of their interactions with tumor cells remains ill-defined. These questions were addressed in the present study by exposing human mesenchymal stromal and LP-1 cells to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species produced by CAP and evaluating cell viability. Superoxide anion (O2-) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) were the two major species present in plasma, but their respective concentrations were not sufficient to cause cell death when used in isolation; however, in the presence of iron, both species enhanced the cell death-inducing effects of plasma. We propose that iron containing proteins in cells catalyze O2- and H2O2 into the highly reactive OH radical that can induce cell death. The results demonstrate how reactive species are transferred to liquid and converted into the OH radical to mediate cytotoxicity and provide mechanistic insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying tumor cell death by plasma treatment.