Zinc-doped copper oxide nanocomposites inhibit the growth of human cancer cells through reactive oxygen species-mediated NF-κB activations

Ru Yuan, Huanli Xu, Xiaohui Liu, Ye Tian, Cong Li, Xiaoliang Chen, Shuonan Su, Ilana Perelshtein, Aharon Gedanken, Xiukun Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Zinc-doped copper oxide nanocomposites (nZn-CuO NPs) are novel nanparticles synthesized by our group. In the present study, the antitumor effects and the underlying molecular mechanisms of the nZn-CuO NPs were investigated. The cytotoxicity of nZn-CuO NPs against several types of cancer cell lines was studied using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium (MTS)/phenazinemethosulfate (PMS) assay. Results showed that nZn-CuO NPs exerted obvious antiproliferation effects on cancer cells and relatively weak antiproliferation effects on normal cells. The antitumor mechanisms of nZn-CuO NPs were further investigated using human liver cancer HepG2 cells and human pancreatic cancer Panc28 cells. Hoechst 33342 staining and FITC-Annexin V/PI staining showed that nZn-CuO NPs could induce cell apoptosis in a dose dependent manner. Cell-cycle analysis using flow cytometry revealed that nZn-CuO NPs were able to arrest the cell cycle in the G2/M phase. Also, nZn-CuO NPs were found to induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Further studies confirmed that nZn-CuO NPs could increase p-IKKα/β and nucleus p-NF-κB p65 expressions and decrease IKKα, IKKβ, IκBα, and nucleus NF-κB p65 expressions in both cell lines. Overall, our data demonstrated that nZn-CuO NPs could selectively inhibit the growth of cancer cells via ROS-mediated NF-κB activation. The current study provides primary evidence that nZn-CuO NPs possess the potential to be developed as a novel anticancer agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31806-31812
Number of pages7
JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
Issue number46
StatePublished - 23 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.


  • NF-κB activation
  • antitumor mechanisms
  • apoptosis
  • cancer cell
  • reactive oxygen species
  • zinc-doped copper oxide nanocomposite


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